Sarah Palin’s House candidacy sparks rift with GOP, reopens old wounds

GOP hardliners are already planning to invite him to join their congressional caucus. And House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said Wednesday he was a “huge fan” of her.

But some Republicans in Alaska scoff.

“We have 50 names that Alaskans will have the option to choose from,” Senator Lisa Murkowski, the state’s senior senator, who has a long-frozen relationship with Palin, told CNN in Washington. “A lot of really good qualified people that no one else talks about here. Back home they are. So it’s your own kind of bubble. I’m just saying to you: you’re not in the Alaskan bubble , because Alaskans talk about others.”

“It’s a really tough question,” Murkowski said. “Because it’s been years.”

Palin’s decision to jump into the race to replace the late Don Young — who represented the state for nearly 50 years — adds a top national candidate to a field of nearly 50. And it’s reopening old wounds with some Republican critics, who were eager to see the mercurial politician stay away for good after she abruptly resigned as governor of Alaska in 2009.

Some of her opponents are trying to capitalize on the loophole she left behind.

“A lot of people I know were very surprised because we didn’t know she was still a resident of the state,” said Nick Begich III, a Republican rival for the seat and grandson of the late Rep. Nick. Begich and his nephew. of former Democratic Senator Mark Begich. “Most people have never seen her. I’ve been to hundreds of events over the past few years and I may have seen her once. And almost everyone has. who I talked to.”

Palin, whose campaign has not responded to multiple requests for comment, still has a home in Wasilla, Alaska, the small town where she was first elected to city council 30 years ago before being elected. mayor. She then beat Murkowski’s father, Frank, in the 2006 gubernatorial race. After being catapulted onto the national stage as the running mate of GOP presidential candidate Senator John McCain in 2008, she resigned her seats. functions three years after the start of his four-year term.

In announcing her resignation, Palin likened herself to a point guard who would selflessly “pass the ball for the win” and save state taxpayers’ money by leaving office early, as a number of ethical complaints were filed against her.
“A lot of people just accept that lame duck status, hit the road, pull the paycheck and milk it. I’m not putting Alaska through this – I promised efficiencies and efficiencies,” had she said at the time.

Palin’s Alaska Republican critics say she hasn’t been involved in state politics for years, as she has spent some of her time living elsewhere and traveling the country promoting her conservative causes.

Since leaving office, Palin has bought and sold homes in Arizona. She published a New York Times bestselling memoir, “Going Rogue,” filmed the TLC reality series “Sarah Palin’s Alaska” and the Sportsman Channel’s “Amazing America with Sarah Palin,” launched and dropped the Sarah Channel Palin online and made political comments. on Fox before his contract was renewed in 2015.
She also answered questions about running for various positions, including against Murkowski during the senator’s 2022 re-election bid, and recorded a video calling out Murkowski as the senator pondered whether to support the nomination. of Amy Coney Barrett for the Supreme Court in 2020. (Murkowski ended up voting for Barrett.)

Lately, Palin has spoken out against the efficacy of coronavirus vaccines, telling a Turning Point USA-sponsored conference in Phoenix, “It’s going to be on my dead body that I’ll have to get vaccinated.”

“I won’t do that,” said Palin, who tested positive for Covid-19 in 2021 and 2022. “I won’t, and they better not touch my kids either.”

In an interview this week, Alaska Sen. Dan Sullivan, a Republican who served as attorney general while Palin was governor, said he doesn’t approve of the race at this point.

“We have a lot of good candidates in the running, 50. She’s one of them,” Sullivan said. “And what I’m looking for right now is someone who can fit into Don Young’s seat as a fighter.”

When asked if Palin would be a good partner on Capitol Hill, Sullivan replied, “There are many who would be good partners, and she is one of them.”

Murkowski had a different answer to this question.

“I’m not giving an analysis of her at this point,” Murkowski said. “I’m talking about all these other campaigns.”

Palin angered Murkowski in 2008 when she continually touted her efforts to break up the “old boy network,” a reference to the senator’s father, and even flirted with the senator’s challenge in 2010.

Murkowski warned her at the time not to challenge her.

“I can guarantee it would be a very tough election,” Murkowski said in 2008. Palin never ran against Murkowski.

Asked about the episode and her relationship with Palin, Murkowski said Wednesday, “I won’t talk about Sarah Palin.”

A tricky path to victory

The 2022 election could also be risky.

The top four candidates from the June 11 special primary election will contest the August 16 special general election. The winner will sit in Congress until January.

On August 16, Alaskans will also vote in the regular primary elections, and the top four candidates will face off on November 8. The winner of this House race will earn a full two-year term.

Elections in Alaska are now held under a ranked ballot, where voters can rank up to five candidates.

Now Palin faces nearly 50 opponents in her bid for Congress, including Begich. Other Republican candidates include State Senator Josh Revak, former Bureau of Indian Affairs chief Tara Sweeney and former State Senator John Coghill. Independent Al Gross, who ran and lost the 2020 U.S. Senate race from Alaska as a Democratic candidate, and Democratic Assemblyman Chris Constant are also in the running.

Young’s footprints are all over the race for his successor; Revak and Sweeney were the statewide co-chairs of Young’s 2022 campaign, and Begich co-chaired his 2020 campaign before announcing his 2022 candidacy against the congressman.

In interviews, Revak, an army veteran, and Begich have sought to distinguish themselves from Palin.

“I’m not going to Congress to be inflammatory,” Revak said. “I’m going there to represent the Alaskans.”

Begich added, “I think a lot of Alaskans recognize that one style of lightning rod will do little or nothing to advance Alaska’s cause nationally.”

Conservative House Republicans embrace Palin

In the House, Palin’s candidacy for Congress was more warmly received by her prospective GOP colleagues.

Members of the Hardline House Freedom Caucus — an invite-only group that has morphed into a Trump loyalty club over the years — said Palin would likely find a welcome home on their conservative team.

“I’m glad to hear it,” said freshman Rep. Matt Rosendale of Montana, a member of the Freedom Caucus, of Palin’s announcement. “And I would expect that if she comes to Congress, she’s a member of the Freedom Caucus.”

In an interview with Fox this week, Palin singled out the Freedom Caucus as a group she would be interested in joining and praised its fiery politics.

“I’ve always been a big fan of the Freedom Caucus,” Palin said. “I always felt sorry for them. Because they were criticized, beaten and misunderstood. But they have the right priorities.”

But it’s not just the far-right group: The highest-ranking House Republican also praised Palin.

“I’m a huge Sarah Palin fan,” McCarthy, a close Trump ally, said. “I was impressed with her. I’ve spoken to her before.”

Republicans believe Trump’s endorsement could certainly give Palin a head start in the crowded primary, but they also noted that she is already a national figure in conservative politics with high profile.

“We can’t ignore that she’s made a name for herself,” Rosendale said.

Although members of the Freedom Caucus were mostly thrilled at the idea of ​​Palin joining their ranks, some of them couldn’t help but scoff at the blunders that often defined her political brand.

“I know she could see Russia from her porch,” Tennessee Rep. Scott DesJarlais joked when asked about Palin’s politics, referring to Tina Fey’s impression of Palin’s “Saturday Night Live.” “But no, she’s very conservative. … I look forward to working with her.”

CNN’s Ted Barrett and Morgan Rimmer contributed to this report.

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