Politics

Alaska’s U.S. House candidate field expands as Friday deadline nears

The race for Alaska’s single U.S. House seat is getting increasingly crowded as prominent Alaskans join the field to replace Republican Rep. Don Young, who died earlier this month after 49 years as the state’s lone congressman.

Attorney and gardening columnist Jeff Lowenfels announced he was entering the race Wednesday as an independent. Republican Nick Begich III also made official his bid, filing Wednesday to run for both the special and regular elections.

Begich first announced his candidacy five months ago, saying he would challenge Young from the right.

The 44-year-old Chugiak resident is the grandson of of Nick Begich Sr., who was elected to Alaska’s lone congressional seat in 1970 but disappeared during a 1972 flight to Juneau.

Begich Sr. was replaced by Young, who held the seat for 49 years until his death on a flight from Los Angeles to Seattle en route to Alaska.

Lowenfels, a 73-year-old former assistant attorney general and oil and gas industry executive, confirmed he would run for both the special election to carry out Young’s term and for the regular election for the term beginning in January 2023.

Begich and Lowenfels join a field that already includes Republican former state Sen. John Coghill and orthopedic surgeon Al Gross, who said he will run as an independent. Both announced runs on Tuesday.

Democrat Christopher Constant has also said he intends to run for both the special and regular elections.

Other Alaska politicians considering throwing their hats in the ring include Anchorage Democratic Rep. Chris Tuck, Native leader Tara Sweeney and Anchorage Republican state Sen. Josh Revak. None could be reached Wednesday.

Another prominent Alaskan considering joining the race is the man who lost to Young when Young won his first term in 1973.

Emil Notti, 89, was one of the architects of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act; he lost to Young by fewer than 2,000 votes in the special election that launched Young’s congressional career.

Notti, a lifelong Democrat, said in an interview Tuesday that he’s considering a run only for the special election to finish Young’s term — “just to keep watch out for the Alaska interests, whatever might come up in that short period of time,” he said.

Prominent Republican Mead Treadwell, who previously served as lieutenant governor, said in an interview Wednesday that he ruled out a run after considering his other commitments. Treadwell said he would support a younger candidate in the race and one who would run for both the special and regular election.

“I think it’s pretty important that we treat the special election seriously, because seniority is very important and sometimes those four months can make the difference in four to eight years in a committee assignment or chairmanship,” Treadwell said.

A special primary is set for June 11, with the special election to fill complete the House term set for Aug. 16. The top four vote-getters in the special primary will advance to the special election, the first to use the state’s new ranked-choice voting system.

The August special election will coincide with the regular primary. The November general election will determine who will represent Alaska in the U.S. House for a two-year term starting in January.

Other candidates who have filed with the Division of Elections for the special primary include Gregg Brelsford, William “Bill” Hibler III, Robert “Bob” Lyons, J.R. Myers, Stephen Wright, Jay Armstrong, Brian Beal, Chris Bye, Otto Florschutz III, Laurel A. Foster, Thomas “Tom” Gibbons, Karyn Griffin, Ted Heintz, and Sherry Mettler.

Anchorage Daily News reporters Nat Herz and James Brooks contributed to this story from Juneau.

Correction: A previous version of this story misspelled the name of candidate Karyn Griffin. Her name is Karyn, not Laryn.

Iris Samuels

Iris Samuels is a reporter for the Anchorage Daily News focusing on state politics. She previously covered Montana for The Associated Press and wrote for the Kodiak Daily Mirror.

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