Special election spot vacated by Gross will not be filled by another candidate

Decision means fifth-place runner, Republican Tara Sweeney, will not advance to special general election
Alaska's News Source Anchor Maria Downey brings you the Summer Solstice June 21 FastCast.
Published: Jun. 21, 2022 at 1:47 PM AKDT|Updated: Jun. 21, 2022 at 2:39 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The Alaska Division of Elections said the vacated spot of nonpartisan candidate Al Gross — who withdrew his candidacy from the special election race for Alaska’s congressional seat Monday night — will not be replaced with another candidate, likely leaving only three names on August’s special general election ballot.

In a letter sent Tuesday to the campaign of Republican candidate Nick Begich, Division of Elections Director Gail Fenumiai explained that because election day for the special general election is less than 64 days away, Alaska law does not permit another candidate to move up to replace the spot vacated by a previously nominated candidate that has withdrawn.

“(I)f a candidate nominated at the primary election ... withdraws ... after the primary election and 64 or more days before the general election, the vacancy shall be filled by the director by replacing the withdrawn candidate with the candidate who received the fifth most votes in the primary election,” the letter read.

However, the division states that because the special general election — scheduled for Aug. 16 — is only 56 days away, the fifth-place candidate is not allowed to be put on the ballot by the division.

Fenumiai confirmed that only three candidates will move forward in the special general election to replace the late Rep. Don Young in an interview with Alaska’s News Source Tuesday. Fenumiai said that the Division of Elections received guidance from the Department of Law in issuing their decision. The final batch of election results will be released Tuesday afternoon.

Republican Tara Sweeney is currently ranked fifth, according to the latest election results, with 8,671 votes, or 5.7% of the vote. If Gross’ withdrawal had come 64 days or more before the Aug. 16 date, the division would have the option of moving her up to the final ballot.

Although officially removed from contention, Gross currently has the third-most votes with 18,936, or 12.6%. Republican Sarah Palin leads the way with 41,302 votes, or 27.5%, while Begich sits second with 28,859 votes, or 19.2%.

Democrat Mary Peltola is sitting fourth in the vote tally with 14,133 votes, or 9.4% of the total.

The division wrote that any party that disagrees with the ruling should “file suit immediately.” It also wrote that a final determination from the courts will be made by 12 p.m. on June 28 in order for ballots to be printed in time to keep the election on schedule.

Candidates had a deadline of 12 p.m. Sunday to officially withdraw from the race.

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