FAIRBANKS — The Alaska Republican Party has endorsed Nick Begich III’s run for the state’s lone U.S. House seat, marking the first formal endorsement made by the party — which can endorse multiple candidates in the race.
Republican Party officials voted to endorse Begich on Thursday in a state central committee meeting ahead of the party’s convention in Fairbanks, which began Friday morning. While it’s their first endorsement in the race, party officials emphasized that they could endorse additional candidates ahead of the election.
Begich is one of 16 Republicans running for the congressional seat. Others include former vice presidential candidate and governor Sarah Palin, state Sen. Josh Revak, former state Sen. John Coghill and former Interior Department assistant secretary for Indian affairs Tara Sweeney.
“I think it does a lot to validate the work we’ve done in the campaign to date,” Begich said Friday. The endorsement, he said, “helps crystallize for Republican voters who among those many candidates the Republican Party supports.”
Begich was the only candidate to have requested the state Republican Party’s endorsement as of Friday morning, said Craig Campbell, vice chair of the Alaska Republican Party.
“It’s not an exclusive,” Campbell said. “If other Republicans that are running would like to have the endorsement, they’re encouraged to contact the party chair and to make that request in writing, and we’ll process it.”
Republican candidates can earn the party’s endorsement by submitting a request to party leadership. The request is then vetted by party officials and brought to a vote by the state central committee, according to Campbell.
If a candidate agrees with the Republican platform and has a track record as a party member, Campbell said he would expect the party to endorse them.
U.S. Rep. Don Young died unexpectedly last month after 49 years in Congress, launching a race to fill his seat. The field now encompasses 48 candidates, but Begich is one of a handful who announced bids for the seat before Young’s death.
[Alaska’s lone U.S. House seat will be vacant until September. What happens in the meantime?]
Begich, 44, is a software company executive who served as Young’s reelection campaign co-chair in 2020. He entered the race last year saying he would run to the right of Young, and has criticized the congressman for bipartisan policy moves. He drew endorsements from several conservative elected officials and groups in the state before Young’s death.
Begich III is the grandson of Nick Begich Sr., who was elected to Alaska’s U.S. House seat in 1970 but disappeared during a 1972 flight from Anchorage to Juneau. Begich Sr. was a Democratic lawmaker, as are two of his sons, former U.S. Sen. Mark Begich and current state Sen. Tom Begich.
Republican candidates Palin, Revak, Coghill, Sweeney and Nick Begich III are expected to meet for the party convention’s multi-candidate forum Saturday morning — the first such event in the race.
Campbell said Friday that there was some concern among party officials about endorsing a candidate before the Saturday forum, but ultimately they agreed it was appropriate to grant Begich the endorsement after his request.
Palin was quick to blast party leadership for the decision.
“Most of the delegates hadn’t even arrived in Fairbanks yet before news arrived that a backroom deal had already been struck for an endorsement from state party politicos,” Palin said in a statement released Friday, calling the endorsement “a slap in the face of convention delegates” and “a betrayal of all Alaskans who believe in fair play.”
Palin, who has an endorsement from former President Donald Trump, will not seek an endorsement from the party, according to her campaign.
“This predictable action of the Party establishment proves that the old boys’ network is alive and well in Alaska,” Palin said. “I built a reputation for going rogue against the establishment, but it’s only because I have always represented the very best of Alaska — hard working people who believe in God and country and who reject backroom deals that benefit the few.”
The special primary is set for June 11 with a general election scheduled for Aug. 16. The elections will be the first under the state’s new election laws, which dictate that the top four vote getters in the nonpartisan, pick-one, open primary will advance to a ranked choice general election.
Anchorage Daily News reporter Nat Herz contributed to this story.