In Alaska’s U.S. House race, GOP support is split between two Trump-aligned candidates

Two high profile Republicans are challenging Democratic U.S. Rep. Mary Peltola for Alaska’s lone U.S. House seat, setting up a challenge for the GOP as it seeks to return the seat to the red column in the November election.

Under Alaska’s open primary system, both Lt. Gov. Nancy Dahlstrom and businessman Nick Begich III are expected to advance through the August primary, when the top four vote-getters — regardless of party affiliation — will advance to the general election.

Alaska’s U.S. House race belongs to an ever-shrinking group of swing seats that both Democrats and Republicans see as winnable — and that could be pivotal in determining control of the U.S. House after the November election.

But Alaska’s GOP remains split. Dahlstrom recently received an endorsement from former President Donald Trump, adding to endorsements from House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-Louisiana, and other national figures. Begich has coalesced support from several Republican women’s clubs and sitting legislators.

Both candidates say they will not repeat what happened in 2022, when Begich and former Gov. Sarah Palin split the GOP vote amid Republican-on-Republican bickering, allowing Democratic U.S. Rep. Mary Peltola to pull away with the victory in Alaska’s first use of open primaries and ranked choice voting.

Begich and Dahlstrom have largely avoided negative campaigning, but that alone likely won’t suffice when voters head to the polls in November. Ranked choice voting could allow a single GOP candidate to prevail even when there is more than one on the ballot, but many right-leaning voters remain suspicious of ranking more than one candidate amid national attacks on the voting system from right-wing figures, including Trump.

Alaskans could see a ballot initiative in November seeking to repeal Alaska’s ranked choice voting system. Begich has said he supports the repeal effort. Dahlstrom, who as lieutenant governor oversees Alaska’s elections, has remained neutral. The Alaska GOP has vowed to support the repeal effort.


To assuage concerns over vote-splitting, Begich has promised that if he comes in behind Dahlstrom in the August primary, he will drop out of the race.

“We’re going to respect what we believe is the desire of the people. I would hope that the lieutenant governor would do the same,” said Begich’s campaign adviser, Bernadette Wilson. “As far as our campaign goes, we are absolutely committed to that.”

Begich declined an interview request for this story. His campaign manager Josh Walton referred questions to Wilson.

In an interview last week, Dahlstrom said she would not commit to dropping out of the race, regardless of how she performs in the primary.

“I’m not making that commitment. I haven’t and won’t,” Dahlstrom said. But, she said that after the Aug. 20 primary, she wanted to call a meeting with Begich, Gov. Mike Dunleavy and Alaska GOP Chair Carmela Warfield.

She said she wanted to “sit down and say, ‘let’s look at these votes, let’s look at the numbers, let’s see what we have to do to have a Republican in this seat.’”

“If there’s any decisions to be made, that’s when they will get made, but I’m in it to win and I’m in it until November,” said Dahlstrom.

She pointed to the fact that outside groups have committed millions in advertising on her behalf. Peltola, the incumbent, holds a significant fundraising edge over the GOP candidates, but the national support directed at Dahlstrom could help overcome that as election day nears.

In Trump’s recent endorsement of Dahlstrom, he accused Begich of costing the GOP Alaska’s U.S. House seat — which had been held by Republican Rep. Don Young for nearly 50 years before his 2022 death — because Begich had “refused to get out of this race last time, which caused the Republicans to lose this important seat.”

Begich has continued to align himself with the former president despite the attack. Asked about the endorsement, Wilson said no two politicians agree on everything. Wilson pointed to endorsements Begich had received from local groups and a dozen GOP legislators in Alaska, including House Speaker Cathy Tilton.

“This race is going to be determined by Alaskans,” she said.

Wilson said Begich had been more visible as a candidate than the other individuals in the race, which could help him overcome Peltola and Dahlstrom’s fundraising edge. Part of that is because he does not hold any office currently, allowing him to attend parades, host forums, and organize meet-and-greets without the demands of an existing job. Dahlstrom said she spends most hours of the work day on her duties as lieutenant governor.

Peltola declined an interview request for this story.

For the first months of Dahlstrom’s campaign, it consisted largely of national endorsement announcements and not much else. Dahlstrom said that in the coming months she plans to attend more events and begin spending the money she has amassed from national donors on campaign advertising that will increase her visibility.

Polling in the race is sparse, but one poll conducted earlier this year by Data for Progress found that the majority of Alaskans didn’t know enough about Dahlstrom to determine whether they viewed her favorably. That was especially true among GOP voters.

Though Dahlstrom is courting votes from the Trump-aligned electorate, her campaign is also signaling that she could appeal to Republicans with a distaste for Trump. She recently announced a campaign finance committee. Half of its 12 members, mostly prominent business leaders and members of the Alaska GOP, had previously endorsed Nikki Haley when she was still running against Trump in the GOP presidential primary.

The campaign finance committee includes former state lawmaker Natasha von Imhof, who served as Haley’s Alaska campaign Anchorage co-chair. It also includes Sitka Republican Sen. Bert Stedman, former lawmaker Charisse Millett, former lawmaker Jay Ramras, Enstar President John Sims, and former Wildlife Conservation Director at the Department of Fish and Game Eddie Grasser. All had endorsed Haley.


Grasser said he supported Begich in 2022 but is now supporting Dahlstrom because he believes she has a higher likelihood of beating Peltola, when compared to Begich.

“She’s viewed as a little more moderate than the Republican Party as a whole is, and therefore might be able to attract moderate voters that are not of the Republican Party,” said Grasser. But Grasser couldn’t name a single issue on which Dahlstrom had expressed a more moderate view than the one held by Begich.

“Actually, I don’t think there’d be that much difference between the two all in all, but I think that the labor community and some other communities might be a little more comfortable with Nancy than they are with Nick,” said Grasser.

Grasser said he similarly supported Haley over Trump in the GOP presidential primary not because of Trump’s policies, but because of Trump’s off-putting communication style.

“I like Trump’s policy, but he just doesn’t sell well to the general populace. I guess I fall in the category of those Republicans that think he could have done a lot better job of communicating with people,” said Grasser.

Still, Grasser said that Trump’s support for Dahlstrom would be an asset. In politics, he said “perceptions matter more than actual reality.”

“I didn’t really make my decision to support Nancy over Nick based on a particular issue, but it’s more based on electability,” Grasser added.

Dahlstrom, too, said the biggest difference between her and Begich was not in a matter of policy, but experience. Both candidates have consistently attacked President Joe Biden’s immigration and economic policies. Both candidates are opposed to abortion access but think the issue should be left to the states to decide. The right to abortion access is protected under the Alaska Constitution.


Begich, a businessman, has laid out his policy positions in greater detail than Dahlstrom has so far. She says she has more to learn on key issues, including on topics related to fishery policies. But Dahlstrom said that without a record of having served in elected office, it would be hard for voters to trust Begich the way they could trust her.

“Some of our core values I think are the same, but my experience shows where I have actually done the work and put my vote,” said Dahlstrom.

Begich’s broad support from Alaska’s GOP groups, including in the Mat-Su, Kenai Peninsula and Fairbanks reflects the fact that the groups “have known him for a long time,” said Dahlstrom. She is banking on the fact that those groups don’t reflect the overall electorate.

“I think it’s a great statement for him, but it’s not an overreaching group in our state. I think the majority of people don’t belong to the groups and I think the majority of people — whether they’re Republican or not, or Democrat or not — don’t participate in party type activities,” said Dahlstrom.

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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 AP and Report for America and wrote for the Kodiak Daily Mirror. Contact her at isamuels@adn.com.