‘Sarah Palin Instructed Supporters Not to Rank Candidates’: Alaska’s GOP Candidates Point Fingers after Special Election Loss

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Republican congressional candidate Nick Begich reprimanded his rival, Sarah Palin, for Democrats’ Wednesday win in Alaska’s special election for its at-large seat, saying she cost the party by instructing “supporters not to rank candidates” in the state’s ranked-choice voting system.

Democrat Mary Peltola’s victory “really boils down to Sarah Palin,” Begich told National Review. “Sarah Palin’s unfavorables in the state of Alaska are so astronomically high, so high in fact, that the only other more unfavorably thought of politician in Alaska is Joe Biden,” said Begich, who insisted that Palin “cannot win statewide in Alaska.”

According to Begich, Palin’s unpopularity can be attributed to her “early resignation from the governorship, her pursuit of fame, and the monetization of her national notoriety immediately following her resignation.”

Palin’s campaign did not respond to several inquiries from National Review, but it has put out statements casting blame for the loss on the ranked-choice system and calling for Begich — who she says “cost the Republicans a seat in Congress” — to drop out of November’s rematch race between the two GOP candidates and Peltola, who now enjoys the advantage of being an incumbent.

“Nick Begich is now a three-time loser. His ego-driven insistence on staying in Alaska’s congressional race after repeatedly failing to garner a majority of Republican votes, while I have consistently won the vote, has just cost Republicans a seat in Congress. Fortunately, there is still time for Begich to do the honorable thing and withdraw before the November election,” Palin said.

Peltola won the special election on Wednesday and will now serve until at least January. The seat opened up when Republican Don Young passed away in March, after having served as Alaska’s sole representative in the House for over 49 years. Peltola is the first Democrat to be elected as a U.S. Representative in the state since 1972, as well as the first woman and Alaskan native to hold the seat.

As a result of the ranked-choice-voting system, Begich was eliminated after the first round after coming in third place with 28.52 percent. His 53,756 votes were then divided up between Palin and Peltola, depending on how the voters chose to rank the other candidates. After the ballots were tabulated following Begich’s elimination, Peltola received 15,445 extra votes, while Palin got 27,042. Over 11,200 people only voted for Begich, without ranking anyone as their second-place candidate.

That last group ultimately proved decisive, as Peltola ultimately prevailed over Palin by a margin of just 5,219 votes (91,206-85,987.)

Although Republican lawmakers, including Arkansas senator Tom Cotton, have blamed Peltola’s win on the ranked-choice-voting system, Begich said the system is not at fault and that Palin is the culprit.

“Unfortunately, Sarah Palin instructed her supporters not to rank candidates, and this had a spill over effect across the electorate. I on the other hand, ranked Sarah Palin second on my ballot and encouraged people to do the same. Either Sarah Palin doesn’t understand the ranked-choice voting system, or is more interested in herself getting elected than supporting other Republicans,” Begich said.

“Ranked-choice voting comes kicking in and then it becomes convoluted, complicated, like oh ‘how many second place votes you get? How many third place votes you get?’ I don’t know! I was telling people all along, ‘don’t comply!'” Palin told voters at a campaign event.

In another video, Palin can be seen pointing at Peltola when she’s asked who she would put as her second choice on the ballot.

Palin issued a statement after the special election, blaming the “confusing” ranked-choice voting system for disenfranchising “60% of Alaskan voters.”

“Ranked-choice voting was sold as the way to make elections better reflect the will of the people. As Alaska — and America — now sees, the exact opposite is true. The people of Alaska do not want the destructive democrat agenda to rule our land and our lives, but that’s what resulted from someone’s experiment with this new crazy, convoluted, confusing ranked-choice voting system. It’s effectively disenfranchised 60% of Alaska voters,” Palin said.

Begich said he is not going to change anything about his approach in November’s campaign.

“We’re going to campaign hard. . . . We’ll continue to travel the state and meet as many people individually as possible. At the end of the day, Alaska is a big state with a small population. We all know one another, and the way that you gather support in Alaska is to have conversations,” he explained.

Palin has said she’s going to “reload” for November, and hopes “that Alaskans learn from this voting system mistake and correct it in the next election.”

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