Begich, Constant to run in special Alaska US House race

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — 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.

Young had held Alaska’s U.S. House seat since 1973 and was the longest-serving Republican in House history. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced Monday that he would lie in state in the U.S. Capitol on March 29.

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.”