A new voting system that counts second choices in the final results, a lack of one-on-one grassroots campaigning, and lingering resentment from the past ... those were the major reasons Alaskans who spoke to Newsmax concluded Sarah Palin narrowly lost the special election Tuesday for the seat of the late Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska.
In near-final results, former Democrat State Rep. Mary Peltola edged 2008 Republican vice-presidential nominee and former Alaska Gov. Palin by 91,206 votes (51.5%) to 85,987 votes (48.5%). Under the Last Frontier's new ranked-choice voting system, these totals were accumulated after Palin's fellow Republican Nick Begich, the third-place finisher in the primary on Aug. 16, was eliminated from the contest and the second-choice votes of his supporters were counted for either Peltola or Palin.
"Ranked choice is flawed," former Republican Lieutenant Governor Mead Treadwell told Newsmax after the results were final. "We were never allowed to vote in a runoff between the top two. Suppose I had ranked [write-in candidate Tara] Sweeney and Begich ahead of Palin. My vote is disenfranchised in a four-way race. We were never allowed to nominate a candidate from our party."
Several national Republican leaders such as Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton — not to mention Palin herself — denounced the ranked-choice system, which was narrowly enacted two years ago in a statewide initiative funded largely by out-of-state liberals (notably Kathryn Murdoch, liberal daughter-in-law of press lord Rupert Murdoch). In January, after the measure is in the books for a year, the Alaska legislature will be permitted to consider its repeal.
Treadwell and others said that Peltola, who will be the first native Alaskan to serve in Congress, got an edge from fellow native voters and pro-choice women voters. There were also many conservatives who supported Begich in the initial vote but, in Treadwell's words, "did not vote for Sarah, either because Sarah ignored them, did not address her vulnerabilities with them, or are Republicans who are either never-Sarah or never-Trump."
Palin had Trump's strong and early endorsement.
The complaint that Palin "ignored" voters was frequently heard. Last month, many Alaskans were surprised to find her jetting to Dallas to appear at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) when personal appearances at coffees, Kiwanis, Lions Club meetings, and church socials are critical in a state where many voters live in small pockets far apart from one another.
"This was a repudiation of Palin personally," Henry Olsen, author of the critically-acclaimed "The Working-Class Republican: Ronald Reagan and the Return of Blue-Collar Conservatism," told Newsmax. "She barely campaigned in the special."
Palin was still criticized for resigning the governorship in 2009 to pursue celebrity appearances and book and television deals. "Quitter!" was often written by never-Sarah voters on her campaign posters.
There seems little doubt that pro-choice women helped put Peltola over the top. But Palin almost never said anything about abortion during the campaign and some pro-life advocates felt this might have kept her base vote down.
"If she reminded voters her opponent favored abortion up to the moment of birth and opposed parental notification, she might have changed things," said Paul Caprio of the Family Political Action Committee Federal.
Contrary to many reports, Palin did indeed concede the race and congratulate Peltola. In texts on the morning after the vote, the Republican texted her opponent and praised her as a "real Alaskan chick. Beautiful and smart and tough."
"I feel a lot of fraternity and comradery with the other candidates and that really includes Sarah," Peltola told reporters.
Peltola, Palin, and Begich will all meet in a rerun of their contest in the general election this November.
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.
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