Republican Tara Sweeney exits race for U.S. House following disappointing results

Tara Sweeney. (Photo by Tara for Alaska)

Republican candidate Tara Sweeney announced this week that she’s suspended her campaign for Alaska’s U.S. House seat and will officially withdraw from the race. 

While the regular primary election has yet to be finalized, Sweeney is on pace to finish a distant fourth with 3.72% of the vote. That’s good enough to advance to the general election but it’d be a steep uphill battle when the three leading candidates—Democrat Mary Peltola and Republicans Sarah Palin and Nick Begich—all hold onto sizable leads.

Peltola is currently leading in the regular primary election with 36.08% of the vote—she also leads in the special election to fill the remainder of the late U.S. Rep. Don Young’s term with 38.9% of the vote—while Palin has 30.6% in the regular primary election and Begich has 26.46%.  

“I have decided to end my campaign for Congress and will file the necessary paperwork to withdraw from the race. Looking at the outcome of the regular primary election, I don’t see a path to victory nor to raise the resources to be successful this November,” she wrote on Twitter, thanking her backers. “We ran a campaign focused on the issues, not partisan rhetoric. I’m proud what we accomplished together.” 

Sweeney had finished fifth in the June special primary election and would have advanced to the special general election—which was held on the same ballot as the Aug. 16 regular primary election—if only independent candidate Al Gross had withdrawn from the race earlier. Sweeney’s backers challenged the decision in the Alaska Supreme Court, but the justices ruled that the window had already been closed.

That won’t be the case, however, for the upcoming general election.

With the window still open for candidates to withdraw, Libertarian candidate Chris Bye would be slated to advance to the general election with .61% of the vote, just 1,087 votes. 

The general election (as well as the special general election) will be conducted with ranked-choice voting where voters can rank as many or as few candidates as they choose in order of preference. If no candidate achieves more than 50% of the vote on the first round of voting—as is the case with the special general election—then the race proceeds to an instant runoff where the worst-performing candidate is eliminated, and their votes are redistributed according to the voters’ rankings. 

The outcome of the special election—and likely the general election—will greatly depend on how voters to ranked Begich first handled the rest of their rankings. If enough Begich voters ranked Palin second, the former Alaska governor would have a good shot at leapfrogging Peltola on her way to Congress. If Begich voters do anything other than rank Palin—either ranking Peltola second or leaving the later rankings completely blank—then Peltola would have a good shot of maintaining her lead and winning the U.S. House race.

The outcome of the special general election will be known on Aug. 31 when the Division of Elections is slated to run the tabulation for the race.

As far as rankings go, Sweeney didn’t announce any endorsement in her statement. 

“This race is vitally important to Alaska’s future,” she wrote. “We must ensure the best representation possible is in place as Alaska’s only voice in the House of Representatives. I look forward to working with a true Alaskan willing to carry forward the legacy of Don Young while serving in Congress. This state is worth fighting for and I am committed to making it a better place now and into the future.” 

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1 Comment on "Republican Tara Sweeney exits race for U.S. House following disappointing results"

  1. I’d be curious on your thoughts:

    Sweeney seemed to have the resources to do what Pelota has done, is it the preference of a moderate D over a moderate R?

    Will Begich be pressured to step out of the way in the general to make sure R’s can get the seat or does the RR establishment hate Palin so much they are willing to gamble? Or doe the AK repubs even have enough clout to do so?

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