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By Kim Jarrett (The Center Square)

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin is leading a pack of 48 candidates in a race to fill out the remaining months of the late U.S. Rep. Don Young’s term. 

Palin has 29.77%, or 32,371, of the votes cast so far, according to results from the Division of Elections. Fellow Republican Nick Begich is in second place with 19.34%, or 20,994 votes. Begich is endorsed by the Alaska Republican Party while Palin has the backing of former President Donald Trump. 

Following Palin and Begich are independent Al Gross, with 12.46% of the vote, and Democrat Mary Peltola, who has 7.45% of the vote. Republican Tara Sweeney garnered 5.25% of the votes.

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Santa Claus, who did not run with a party affiliation, received 4.5% of the vote.  Claus was formerly known as Thomas Patrick O’Connor and serves as Mayor Pro Tem of the North Pole City Council. 

The election is the first one in Alaska using rank choice voting and was conducted by mail only. The top four candidates, regardless of party, will advance to the Aug. 18 primary ballot. Also on the primary ballot is the race to see who will win a two-year term as the state’s lone representative in Congress. Young died in March. 

As of Saturday, elections officials had counted about 108,981 votes. The voter turnout is 18.56%

The final results will not be known until later this month. 

“As long as voters’ ballots are postmarked on or before June 11, their ballot has 10 days to arrive to our (office) to be counted in a primary election,” said Tiffany Montemayor, public relations manager for the Division of Elections. “So we will be doing additional counts and results reports on June 15, June 17, and on June 21, which is the deadline to receive ballots.”

Syndicated with permission from The Center Square.