JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — Republican Sarah Palin has re-emerged in Alaskan politics more than a decade after stepping down as governor in hopes of winning the state’s U.S. House seat. She had a lot to offer: an unbeatable notoriety, endorsement of former President Donald Trump in a condition he wore twice, an unrivaled ability to garner national media attention.
But she struggled to catch fire among voters, some of whom were put off by her 2009 resignation, and ran what critics saw as a lackluster campaign against a Republican backed by state party leaders and a breakout Democrat posing as an ordinary Alaskan woman and running on a platform of “Fish, Family and Freedom”.
Palin lost two elections for Republican Don Young’s seat, 49 years before his death in March — a special election in August to determine who would serve out the remainder of his term and the November 8 general election for a full one tenure of two years. The results of the November 8 election were announced on Wednesday. Both ranking votes were won by Democrat Mary Peltola, who is Yup’ik and became the first Alaska Native woman to run for Congress with her victory in the special election.
Peltola, a former state legislature, avoided the snipers between Palin and Republican Nick Begich, who portrayed the former governor as a quitter and self-promoter. Palin suggested Begich, who ran months before Palin last fall and comes from a family of prominent Democrats, was a “plant” that was draining her of votes. Nonetheless, ahead of this month’s election, the two endorsed a “Rank the Red” strategy in hopes of retaking the seat for the GOP. The general election also included a Libertarian who fell far behind.
Jim Lottsfeldt, a political adviser associated with a super PAC supporting Peltola, said the election looked to many like “easy layups” for Republicans.
Palin, the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee, could have “run away” with them but didn’t seem focused, he said. As missteps, he cited Palin’s trips outside of Alaska, including one to New York days before the general election, and “silly” events at home, including one organized by a political action committee that was sparsely attended and attended by a James tribute actor Brown attended.
With the losses, according to Lottsfeldt, what was once a conservative sensation has become “a kind of old news”.
Republican strategist Brad Todd said Palin “had many of the qualities that President Trump had before President Trump came along. And now there are many imitators of President Trump.” He said that poses a challenge for someone like Palin who “has a lot more society on her trail than she had 12, 14 years ago.”
“One challenge, and President Trump will have that challenge too, is if you want to be some kind of mercenary that’s going to be sent to big battles, you have to win,” Todd said.
But he said the “anti-elite slang” common in the Republican Party came naturally to Palin, and two election losses “won’t stop her from being a very powerful proxy for some people, if that’s what she wants.”
Since the election, Palin has pledged support for efforts aimed at overturning a system approved by Alaskan voters in 2020 that replaced party primaries with open primaries and introduced ranking voting in general elections. This year’s election was the first under this system, which Palin began railing against before the first votes were cast.
Art Mathias, a leader in the annulment effort, said Palin has a “huge audience” and will be “invaluable” in pushing it forward.
Palin told reporters on Election Day that she wasn’t sure what she would do in two years if she lost, but said, “My heart is in the service of Alaskans.” She also said she wanted to speak to members of Congress about it what she can do, even outside of elected office, “to make sure Americans can trust what’s going on in government.”
The comments were similar to those she made in 2009 when she stepped down as governor. Palin attributed her decision to step down to public record requests and ethical grievances, which she said have become distractions.
Palin, a former mayor of her hometown of Wasilla, caused a stir in conservative politics after she burst onto the national stage in 2008 with her folksy demeanor and snappy one-liners. She wrote books, appeared in speaker circles, appeared on reality television shows, spent time as a staffer at Fox News and founded a political action committee that has since defunct.
While she largely stayed out of Alaskan politics after leaving the governorship, Palin was an early supporter of Trump’s 2016 campaign and made headlines this year with an unsuccessful lawsuit against the New York Times.
In a June interview, she balked at critics’ suggestions that she’d left Alaska behind, saying she lives in the state, raised her kids here, and is “so Alaskan” that she recently met a moose while driving.
Palin has created videos through Cameo, a website that allows people to pay for personalized messages from celebrities. Yours will be advertised at $199.
Palin revived her 2008 mantra, “Drill, Baby, Drill,” during the House race by calling for more oil production, and while she and Peltola were friendly, Palin argued the ranked voting system “created the farce of putting a Democrat in the send Congress to represent Alaska, one of the reddest states in the country.”
Andrew Halcro, a former Republican state congressman who ran against Palin for governor and was among the 48 candidates in the House special primary in June, said he doesn’t think Palin can handle “the high percentage of voters who just don’t.” , really understood and acknowledged like her.” Palin took no steps to win her over or attract Begich supporters, he added.
Begich was the second candidate, after the Libertarian, to be eliminated in the general election. When Begich’s 64,392 votes were ranked, just over 43,000 went to Palin, but about 21,500 of his constituents did not opt for a second choice or voted for Peltola, who defeated Palin by 55% of the vote.
But Halcro said he doesn’t see Palin disappear from the stage.
“My question is, when have people like Palin or Trump ever walked away after losing? … They just tightened their rhetoric,” he said.