Alaska voters are welcome to write ‘Tara Sweeney’ on the special election ballot, but here’s why it might not count

woman in sunglasses
Tara Sweeney, a candidate for U.S. House, in downtown Anchorage in June. (Liz Ruskin/Alaska Public Media)

Republican congressional candidate Tara Sweeney said she’s focused on her campaign for a full two-year term in the U.S. House. She’s no longer on the special election ballot to decide who serves the remainder of the late Congressman Don Young’s term, but she says she’s not discouraging anyone from writing in her name.

“We have been contacted by a number of our supporters, my supporters. What we’re hearing is that they feel that candidates currently on the ballot don’t represent them,” she said in a phone interview from Soldotna, where she was campaigning at a local market. “Folks are, you know, going to be voting the way that they vote. And if they write in my name, that is really kind of the prerogative of the individual voter.”

The Division of Elections says write-ins won’t count unless they’re for a candidate who has registered as a write-in. Sweeney hasn’t. She has until Aug. 11.

“I don’t think we’ve ruled out any options,” she said. “This election has been absolutely full of twists and turns and surprises. And so it’d be crazy to rule out any sort of options.”

Sweeney, a former assistant Interior secretary, is one of the best funded candidates. Her campaign has raised about $280,000. A separate, independent group working to get her elected has raised more than $630,000.

She finished fifth in the special primary in June — not high enough to advance to the special general election on Aug. 16. But she’ll be on another ballot that day: the “pick one” regular primary, for the full term that starts in January. Sweeney is among 22 candidates in that race. Four will advance to the November ballot.

The three U.S. House nominees on the special election ballot are Republicans Nick Begich III and Sarah Palin, and Democrat Mary Peltola. They are also running for the full term.

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Liz Ruskin is the Washington, D.C., correspondent for Alaska Public Media. She reports from the U.S. Capitol and from Anchorage. Reach her at lruskin@alaskapublic.org.