Palin on serving in Congress: ‘It would be all about Alaska’

Sarah Palin is not used to sharing the spotlight.

In the nearly 14 years since she burst onto the national political scene, the former Alaska governor has appeared on reality shows, written books, spent time as a Fox News contributor, formed a political action committee in her name, and was an alleged House of Representatives. White. contender. More recently, she has revived her status as a conservative sensation with an unsuccessful lawsuit against The New York Times.

Now, the first Republican candidate for vice president is vying for what could be considered a less glamorous role: a member of the US House.

Palin is among 48 candidates running for the only seat in the Alaska House after 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 in a chamber where ambition runs deep, but legislating is difficult, in large part because of the populist politics that took hold in the 2008 election.

Given that dynamic, it would be easy to dismiss Palin’s candidacy as the latest twist in an unconventional career. Some of her critics sought to classify her as an opportunist seeking to reinforce her brand. The opinion section of the website of Alaska’s largest newspaper is dotted with letters to the editor urging Alaskans to reject her candidacy. Some remind readers that she left the last major job she had in politics, as governor of Alaska, with about 16 months left 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 those who suggest otherwise “don’t know me.” She said she is serious about her quest for the House seat and doesn’t need a “launch runway for anything else.”

In fact, she said, 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 be on any show if I wanted to, and it would be all about Alaska.”

“I love working, and anyone close to me knows,” she said. “What I’m doing is applying for a job, for Alaskans, saying, ‘Hey, you would be my boss. Do you want to hire me? Because if you do, I’ll do a good job for you and I won’t give up.’”

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 navigating the elections that will unfold in rapid order. A special June 11 primary will be the first statewide mail-in election. The four candidates with the most votes will advance to an August 16 special election, in which ranked voting will be used. The winner will serve the remainder of Young’s term, which ends in January.

There will also be primary elections in August and general elections in November to determine who will serve a two-year term starting in January. Palin is one of 16 candidates so far who have applied for the regular primaries.

Some voters question Palin’s decision to leave the governor’s office, a move she attributed to a flurry of registration requests and ethical grievances that she said were frivolous and had become 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, sorry if that narrative is out there because it’s inaccurate,” she said of the realization that she had left Alaska behind. She said that Alaska is her home and that she was “cleaning up moose poop” in her father’s backyard on a recent sunny day before calling a reporter.

She has regularly voted in state elections since leaving office, according to the Elections Division.

“I still really like Carhartts and steel-toed boots and just hard work,” Palin said, referring to a popular brand of outerwear. “I’ve just been blessed with opportunities and a platform to get out there 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 this week’s GOP state convention.

The Republican-leaning dispute in Alaska will do little to shift the balance of power in Washington. But the election is being watched closely as a barometer of former President Donald Trump’s connection to the GOP’s most loyal voters.

In Wasilla, banners of Trump 2020 or Trump 2024 fly from several houses, the few political signals seen so far this election year. Palin said that if Trump runs for president in 2024 and asks her to be his running mate, she would consider it, although she said he could choose anyone and they didn’t have such a frank conversation.

Palin said Trump was among those who contacted her after Young’s death asking if she would be willing to run. She said this is a good time in her life to seek a return to office, politically and personally. Her family life has changed, she noted, with her four older children grown up. Her youngest, Trig, is in high school. Palin divorced Todd Palin, her husband of over 30 years, in 2020.

Palin said he feels he has “nothing to lose” in the race. After having his political and personal life in the media for so long, “what else can they say?” she said, later adding, “For me, it’s freedom.”

Trump has endorsed Palin and made senior state senator Lisa Murkowski one of his top targets this year after she criticized him and voted to convict him during his second impeachment trial.

Even if Palin doesn’t win the election, she could emerge as a vehement critic of Murkowski, who faces voters later this year. Palin said she disagrees with Murkowski on some of his positions, including his vote to convict Trump during his second impeachment trial. But on issues like resource development in Alaska, Palin said she believed they would be “on the same score.”

Palin has perhaps the highest profile among a list 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 the race last fall and works months to accumulate conservative support.

Begich said he considers the Matanuska-Susitna region, a conservative hotspot that includes Wasilla, to be one of his strongest areas. He said he is not aware of any of his supporters defecting since Palin joined the race.

“Everyone who came to support me continues to support me fully, 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 resigned “for the good of the state” after her detractors “attacked her with guns drawn”.

“She lives right down the street and, you know, she grew up here,” he said as he smoked a cigarette outside the Mug-Shot Saloon after finishing lunch on a recent day.

“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 races, said Palin would not be your average House freshman and would have an “extraordinary” platform she could use to help Alaska. He said she is the “only truly conservative, anti-establishment candidate” in the race and that she could be the “natural repository” for voters’ angst over economic and other issues.

Holly Houghton, who works as a pharmacy technician, is willing to listen to Palin. Houghton, who was having lunch with her son outside a restaurant in Wasilla recently, said she has mixed feelings about Palin and is also considering Begich.

Houghton said she doesn’t like how Palin has behaved in her personal life, but also considers her an “excellent” governor.

Houghton said he thinks of the Begich family as Democrats and wants to take a closer look at Begich. Begich’s grandfather, Democrat Nick Begich, took the House seat before Young. His uncle Mark was a Democratic US senator and his uncle Tom is the Democratic leader of the state Senate.

Jesse Sumner, a member of the Matanuska-Susitna City Council, said he thinks Begich is a good candidate. Sumner asked to run for the House seat as a joke on deadline, April Fools’ Day. He later withdrew.

He said he doesn’t see Palin much around town and that Palin’s run seems to be “more about the Sarah Palin show than Alaska.”

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Bohrer reported from Juneau, Alaska.

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