WASILLA, Alaska (AP) — Sarah Palin isn’t used to sharing the limelight.
In the nearly 14 years since she burst onto the national political scene, the former governor of Alaska has appeared on reality TV shows, written books, spent time as a Fox News contributor, formed a political action committee on her behalf, and was a White House rumor mill. competitor. More recently, she rekindled her status as a conservative sensation with an ultimately unsuccessful lawsuit against The New York Times.
Now, the first Republican running mate is up for what might be considered a less glamorous role: a member of the United States House.
Palin is among 48 candidates vying for Alaska’s only House seat following the death last month of Republican Representative Don Young, who held the position for 49 years. If successful, Palin would be one of 435 members of a chamber where ambition runs deep but legislating is difficult, largely because of the populist politics that took hold in the aftermath of the 2008 election.
Given this dynamic, it would be easy to dismiss Palin’s candidacy as the latest headline-grabbing twist in an unconventional career. Some of her critics have sought to cast her as an opportunist looking to boost her brand. The op-ed section of Alaska’s largest newspaper website is peppered with letters to the editor urging Alaskans to reject its candidacy. Some remind readers that she left her last major political post, as Governor of Alaska, with about 16 months remaining in her term.
But in a recent interview with The Associated Press, Palin, 58, dismissed those criticisms. She insisted that her commitment to Alaska has not wavered and that those who suggest otherwise “don’t know me.” She said she was serious about seeking the House seat and didn’t need a “launch pad for anything else”.
In fact, she says, her unique place in American politics would put her in a stronger position in Washington. Unlike other freshman lawmakers, she said, she could “pick up the phone and call any reporter and go on any show if I wanted to, and it would all be about the show.” ‘Alaska”.
“I love working, and everyone around me knows that,” she said. “What I do is apply for a job, for Alaskans, saying, ‘Hey, you’d be my boss. Will you hire me? Because if you do, I’ll do a good job for you and I won’t back down.
There is only one former governor who is currently a member of the House – Democrat Charlie Crist of Florida. Palin faces several obstacles to get there.
One is to navigate elections that will happen quickly. A special June 11 primary will be the first statewide mail-in election. The four candidates with the most votes will advance to a special election on Aug. 16, in which preferential-choice voting will be used. The winner will serve the remainder of Young’s term, which expires in January.
There will also be a primary in August and a general election in November to determine who will serve a two-year term beginning in January. Palin is one of 16 candidates so far to have filed for the regular primary.
Some voters are questioning Palin’s decision to leave the governor’s office, a decision she attributed to a flurry of requests for records and ethics complaints that she called frivolous and became distractions.
She has spent time out of state but maintains a home in Wasilla, her hometown and where she got her start in politics.
“Well, I’m sorry if that narrative is there because it’s inaccurate,” she said of the perception she left behind. She said Alaska was her home and she was “shoveling moose poop” in her dad’s yard on a recent sunny day before calling a reporter.
She has regularly voted in national elections since leaving office, according to the Division of Elections.
“I’m always about Carhartts and steel-toed boots and just hard work,” Palin said, referring to a popular outerwear brand. “I was just blessed with opportunities and a platform to come out and tell and show others the beauty of being an Alaskan.”
She mentions the hunting lifestyles of Alaskans and the importance of responsibly developing the state’s oil and gas resources. She said she plans to attend events, including the Republican Party convention this week.
The Republican-leaning contest in Alaska will do little to change the balance of power in Washington. But the election is being watched closely as a barometer of former President Donald Trump’s ties to the GOP’s most loyal voters.
In Wasilla, Trump 2020 or Trump 2024 banners are flying from several homes, the few political signs seen so far this election year. Palin said if Trump ran for president in 2024 and asked her to be his running mate, she would think about it, although she said he could choose anyone and they didn’t have to. such a candid conversation.
Palin said Trump was among those who contacted her after Young’s death to ask if she would be willing to run. She said it was a good time in her life to seek a return to power, politically and personally. Her family life has changed, she noted, with her four older children growing up. Her youngest, Trig, is in middle school. Palin divorced Todd Palin, her husband of over 30 years, in 2020.
Palin said she felt like she had “nothing to lose” running. After seeing his political and personal life in the media for so long, “what more can they say?” she said, later adding, “To me, that’s freedom.”
Trump endorsed Palin and made senior U.S. state senator Lisa Murkowski one of his top targets this year after criticizing him and voting to convict him in his second impeachment trial.
Even if Palin doesn’t win the election, she could become a high-profile critic of Murkowski, who will face voters later this year. Palin said she disagreed with Murkowski on some of his positions, including his vote to convict Trump in his second impeachment trial. But on issues like resource development in Alaska, Palin said she thinks they’ll be “on the same sheet of music.”
Palin may have the highest profile among a slate of candidates that includes current and former state lawmakers, a North Pole City Council member whose legal name is Santa Claus and Republican Nick Begich, who entered in the running last fall and has been working for months. to build up conservative support.
Begich said he considers the Matanuska-Susitna region, a conservative hotbed that includes Wasilla, to be one of his strongest areas. He said he was not aware of any of his supporters having defected since Palin joined the race.
“Everyone who came out to support me fully supports me, and that’s a strong statement because a lot has changed,” he said.
Tim Burney, who lives in Wasilla, said he supports Palin. He said she quit “for the good of the state” after her critics “attacked her with guns.”
“She lives just down the street here and, you know, she grew up here,” he said, smoking a cigarette outside the Mug-Shot Saloon after finishing lunch recently.
“Her heart is here in Alaska, and I think she’s good for Alaska,” he said.
Joe Miller, a former Republican and now Libertarian whom Palin endorsed in two of her unsuccessful Senate runs, said Palin would not be your average freshman and would have an “extraordinary” platform that she could use to help Alaska. He said she was the “only anti-establishment, truly conservative candidate” in the race and could be the “natural repository” of voter angst on economic and other issues.
Holly Houghton, who works as a pharmacy technician, is ready to listen to Palin. Houghton, who recently ate a take-out lunch with her son outside a restaurant in Wasilla, said she had mixed feelings about Palin and was also considering Begich.
Houghton said she didn’t like the way Palin had behaved in her personal life, but also thought she was a “great” governor.
Houghton said she views the Begich family as Democrats and wants to take a closer look at Begich. Begich’s grandfather, Democrat Nick Begich, held the House seat before Young. Her uncle Mark was a Democratic U.S. Senator and her uncle Tom is the Democratic Leader of the State Senate.
Matanuska-Susitna Borough Assemblyman Jesse Sumner said he thought Begich was a good candidate. Sumner filed for the House seat as a joke on the April Fool’s Day filing deadline. He then withdrew.
He said he didn’t see Palin much around town and that Palin’s run seemed to be “more like it’s the Sarah Palin show than Alaska.”
Bohrer reported from Juneau, Alaska.
Becky Bohrer and Mark Thiessen, Associated Press