Two prominent candidates who had announced plans to run for Alaska’s lone U.S. House seat also intend to run to serve out the remainder of the late-U.S. Rep. Don Young’s term.
Young died Friday at age 88. Special elections will be held to decide who finishes his term, set to expire in January. In addition, there will be regular elections to decide who will hold the seat for the next two-year term, beginning in January.
Republican Nick Begich and Democrat Christopher Constant plan to run in both races. Begich’s campaign manager, Truman Reed, confirmed Begich’s plans. Constant confirmed his plans in an interview with The Associated Press.
Under state law, Gov. Mike Dunleavy will call a special primary, which must be held 60 to 90 days after the vacancy occurred. The top four vote-getters in the special primary will advance to a special election in which ranked choice voting will be used, said Jason Grenn, executive director of Alaskans for Better Elections. The special election is to be held on the first Tuesday that is not a state holiday at least 60 days after the special primary.
Grenn was a sponsor of the initiative passed by voters in 2020 that called for open primaries and ranked voting in general elections. The special primary and special election will be the first time the process is used in state elections since the initiative’s passage.
The winner of the special election will fill the House seat until the current term expires in January.
Dunleavy told reporters he expected a news conference on the special elections process Tuesday. The Republican said he did not have interest in running for the U.S. House.
“I really like Alaska. I want to stay in Alaska,” said Dunleavy, who previously announced plans to seek reelection.
There will be a primary in August and general election in November to decide who will hold the House seat for a two-year term starting in January. Grenn said it would be possible for the ranked choice special election to coincide with the August primary.
The director of the state Division of Elections did not immediately respond to email messages Monday.
Grenn said voter education efforts his group planned on the new system for June through August will be moved up.
He said his organization is confident the division and other groups it’s working with “are ready for this challenge. … We’re going to do everything we can to make sure Alaskans feel confident they know how to fill out a ballot” for the special primary and special election.
A spokesperson with Young’s office did not immediately respond to messages Monday.
Reed, by email, said Begich’s campaign is “excited about the growing support we are receiving around the state. Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with Congressman Young’s family and friends.”
Constant said he was “all in” for both races. “We can’t see any rationale why we would not” run for both, he said.
“I think the bottom line for us is, continue what we’ve been saying for a month: we’re here to run a race for the future of Alaska. We want to talk about the bright future and we’re going to do that at every opportunity we get, which means, yes, we’re going to be on the ballot.”
Young to lie in state at U.S. Capitol
Young, the longest-serving Republican in House history, will lie in state in the U.S. Capitol on March 29, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced Monday.
Young, who was first elected to the House in 1973, was known for his brusque style and for bringing federal investment to the state. He was elected in 2020 to serve his 25th term as Alaska’s only member.
Pelosi’s office said a formal ceremony will be held with the Young family, which will be open to invited guests. Following the memorial service, there will be viewing open to members of Congress. Lying in state is an honor traditionally bestowed upon American political and military leaders. Young will lie in state in National Statuary Hall.
Pelosi had said after Young’s passing that he was an “institution” in Congress.
“The photographs of him with ten presidents of both parties who signed his bills into law that proudly cover the walls of his Rayburn office are a testament to his longevity and his legislative mastery,” she said.
President Joe Biden said few legislators left a greater mark on their state than Young.
“Don’s legacy lives on in the infrastructure projects he delighted in steering across Alaska,” Biden said.
Most recently, Young won $23.7 million for Alaska for water, road and other projects in the government-wide $1.5 trillion spending bill Biden signed into law this week, according to an analysis of that bill by The Associated Press. It is one of the highest amounts for home-district projects that any House member had in the legislation.
Earlier, he was one of only 13 Republicans who voted for a roughly $1 trillion package of road and other infrastructure projects, which he described as perhaps the country’s “last best chance” to make the federal investments necessary to strengthen the country’s infrastructure needs for the next century and beyond.
Young came to Alaska in 1959, the same year Alaska became a state, and credited Jack London’s “Call of the Wild,” which his father used to read to him, for drawing him north.
Young served as chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee from 1995 to 2001 and then as the chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee from 2001-2007.
• Kevin Freking with the Associated Press contributed to this article