Former Alaska Gov. and vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin has a substantial early lead over the other 47 candidates running for her state’s open spot in the U.S. House of Representatives, according to The Associated Press. The four top vote-getters, regardless of party, will advance to a special election in August.
After the passing of longtime Rep. Don Young back in March, the search for a stand-in for the rest of his term has deviated from the political norm in the “The Last Frontier.” Several candidates joined the race with hectic, last-minute filings, and the primary has been conducted almost entirely by mail. The pool of competitors fighting for Alaska’s sole seat in the House includes a surgeon, multiple commercial fisherman and Santa Claus himself.
According to CNN’s live count of the special primary results, Palin holds a significant lead at 29.8%, which translated to 32,371 votes at the time of publishing. She has more than 11,000 votes more than the next candidate, former Sen. Mark Begich, who has 19.3% of votes. Al Gross and former House Rep. Mary Peltola, hold 12.5% and 7.5% of the votes, respectively.
Political analysts believe Palin likely benefits from the name recognition gained during her time as Alaska governor and her campaign alongside presidential candidate John McCain. Support from former President Donald Trump also provides a significant lift.
Trump endorsed Palin shortly after her announcement that she would be running for the congressional seat.
“Sarah shocked many when she endorsed me very early in 2016, and we won big. Now, it’s my turn,” Trump stated, according to Newsweek. “Sarah Palin is tough and smart and will never back down, and I am proud to give her my Complete and Total Endorsement, and encourage all Republicans to unite behind this wonderful person and her campaign to put America First!”
Newsweek reported that Palin’s odds of winning prior to Trump’s endorsement sat at 7-1. Following his public support, her odds have jumped 4-1.
Mail-in ballots in the special election primary had to be postmarked by Saturday, June 11. State election officials plan to do a final count on June 21 and certify the race on June 25, the AP reported. Voters will decide between the final four candidates in August.