Politics

Constant ends bid for Alaska’s U.S. House seat, endorses Peltola

Democratic candidate Chris Constant has become the first to pull out of the regular U.S. House race after his campaign failed to gain traction in the special U.S. House election to fill Alaska’s lone seat.

The special election, trigged by Republican U.S. Rep. Don Young’s sudden death in March, will determine who will carry out the last few months of his term. A separate election will determine who fills the seat for the full two-year term beginning in January 2023.

Constant, an Anchorage Assembly member, announced his bid for the seat before Young’s death. With his February announcement, he became the first Democrat in the race and the first openly gay candidate for statewide office in Alaska.

“I entered the race for Alaska’s lone seat in Congress to provide a progressive choice for Alaskans. The campaign we expected dramatically changed when Don Young passed away,” Constant said in a statement Thursday. He endorsed Democrat Mary Peltola in the same statement.

Constant earned 3.6% of votes counted so far in the special primary race. Additional votes are still being counted in the state’s first by-mail election, and results are expected to be certified June 25. Constant’s 4,854 votes so far put him in eighth place.

The front-runners in the race according to preliminary results are Republican former Gov. Sarah Palin, who earned 28.2% of the vote in her first political race since resigning as governor; Republican businessman Nick Begich, who received 19.2% of the vote; orthopedic surgeon Al Gross, running as an independent, who has 12.7% of the vote; and Democratic former state lawmaker Peltola, who earned 8.9% of the vote. The top four vote-getters advance to a special general election on Aug. 16.

[Palin, Begich, Gross and Peltola solidify leads in Alaska’s special U.S. House primary election]

Separately, a primary election will be held Aug. 16 to determine the candidates for the November general election that will decide who fills Alaska’s lone U.S. House seat for the next two-year term.

As of Thursday morning, 31 candidates were running in the regularly scheduled election. But Constant’s spokesperson Aubrey Wieber confirmed Thursday that Constant would withdraw from the race, bringing the number of candidates down to 30.

“The special election brought dozens of Alaskans to the race — a remarkable testament to our democratic process,” Constant said in his statement. ”While I did not do as well as I had hoped, a true progressive candidate will move on to the next round.”

Constant endorsed Peltola, who is Yup’ik and resides in Bethel, in both the special and regular elections, calling her “the only true progressive candidate” to move to the general election.

“I gave Mary my commitment to support her campaign, so our values and issues are elevated throughout the congressional contests,” Constant said.

Gross, who ran unsuccessfully for U.S. Senate in 2020 with the Democratic Party’s endorsement, has distanced himself from Democrats in his current campaign. Alaska Democratic Party Director Lindsay Kavanaugh has said the party, which endorsed all six Democrats who ran in the 48-person primary, would discuss endorsing the Democrat who makes it to the special general election.

Tara Sweeney, who ran as a moderate Republican and is Inupiaq, is currently in fifth place in the special primary with 5.6% of the vote. She indicated in a statement released Wednesday that she would reconsider her run in the regular election.

Sixth-place candidate Santa Claus, a progressive independent who currently has 4.5% of the vote, said Wednesday he had not given up on the possibility of advancing to the special general election. Claus is not running for the regular two-year term.

Jeff Lowenfels, an independent in seventh place who earned 3.7% of votes counted so far, said Thursday he was conceding the special election but had not made a final decision on whether he would run in the regular election.

Democrat Emil Notti, who so far has received 1.2% of the vote and is sitting in 13th place, also endorsed Peltola, saying he is “very proud of her monumental achievement.” Notti, an Athabaskan Alaska Native leader, faced Young in the 1973 special election that launched Young’s 49-year career in Congress.

Of the nearly 155,000 ballots accepted so far by the Division of Elections, around 134,000 — roughly 86% — have been counted. Ballots postmarked by June 11 and received by the division by June 21 will be counted. Another round of vote tallies is expected Friday, with a final vote tally scheduled on Tuesday.

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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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