Former Alaska governor and vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin said Friday she is running for her state’s single congressional seat after years away from the national politics, casting herself as a fighter against the “radical left.”
The Republican will vie with more than 50 candidates to fill the vacancy left by Rep. Don Young — the longest-serving Republican in the House of Representatives — who died last month. Palin shot to right-wing stardom as the late Sen. John McCain’s running mate in the 2008 presidential election and went on to boost the tea party movement, champion conservative causes on Fox News and even compete on reality TV.
“America is at a tipping point,” Palin said in a Facebook post in which she criticized inflation and rising gas prices — key talking points for Republicans as the midterms approach. “As I’ve watched the far left destroy the country, I knew I had to step up and join the fight.”
A spokesperson for the Alaska Division of Elections, Tiffany Montemayor, confirmed in an email that Palin filed her paperwork to enter the race on Friday, the deadline to enter.
Young’s death at age 88 kicked off the first special election in Alaska since the state adopted a top-four primary system, a reform that scrambled politics in a state where Democrats have not won a federal election since 2008. Many Republicans opposed the change, which voters passed in 2020.
Candidates of every party will compete in a June 11 primary for Young’s former seat; the four who get the most votes will appear on an Aug. 16 ranked-choice ballot. The packed field of candidates include 2020 Democratic U.S. Senate nominee Al Gross, Anchorage assembly member Christopher Constant (D) and Republican state Sen. Josh Revak, who had chaired Young’s 2022 reelection campaign.
Congressional leaders paid tribute to Young this week as he lay in state at the U.S. Capitol after representing Alaska for 49 years. Revak praised Young on Twitter as someone with a “unique ability to set aside his differences to get things done for Alaska.”
“If we can do one thing to honor his legacy, it is to carry that spirit forward by coming together for the good of all Alaskans,” Revak said.
Palin’s popularity in the state fell dramatically after her 2008 vice presidential campaign and her decision to resign as governor the following summer. In 2018, when Palin suggested that she might challenge Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) after the moderate incumbent voted against Brett M. Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court, a poll conducted by Alaska Survey Research found that just 31 percent of Alaskans had a favorable view of Palin.
Palin signaled an interest recently in filling Young’s seat, telling Newsmax, “If I were asked to serve in the House and take his place, I would be humbled and honored. In a heartbeat, I would.”
Announcing her candidacy Friday, Palin criticized liberal stances on immigration and called for “energy security” while saying the federal government should let the “free market” reign. “I realize that I have very big shoes to fill,” she wrote.
Palin has allied herself with former president Donald Trump, whom she endorsed early in 2016, well before he came to define the GOP. Like Trump, Palin frames herself as an anti-establishment figure who speaks her mind.
“We need people like Donald Trump who has nothing to lose, like me,” Palin said on Fox News last month. “We’ve got nothing to lose and no more of this vanilla milquetoast namby-pamby wussy-pussy stuff that’s been going on.”
Palin was elected Alaska’s first female governor in 2006 and became a household name when former Republican presidential nominee McCain selected her as his running mate. Palin excited the right but quickly drew ridicule for gaffes and was skewered on Saturday Night Live as unprepared to hold one of the highest posts in the country.
She stayed in the news after leaving political office — garnering a $1.25 million advance for a memoir that sold more than 2 million copies, signing a contract with Fox News and starring in the TLC show “Sarah Palin’s Alaska.” More recently, she danced to Sir Mix-A-Lot’s “Baby Got Back” on the reality competition “The Masked Singer” while wearing a pink and purple bear costume.
This year Palin made headlines for defying New York City’s coronavirus rules by dining out there while unvaccinated. She revealed the same week that she tested positive for the virus.
Her long-running libel suit against the New York Times also went to trial early this year.
“What am I trying to accomplish? Justice, for people who expect the truth in the media,” Palin told reporters as she entered court. A judge dismissed the case in February, saying Palin did not show the Times acted with “actual malice” even as he criticized the paper’s error in a 2017 editorial.