Palin and Begich both say ‘rank the red’ while diverging in style

A James Brown impersonator led a conga line at a sparsely attended rally Sunday, sponsored by a political action committee. About 100 people were in the room when Sarah Palin took the stage. (Liz Ruskin/Alaska Public Media)

The Republicans in Alaska’s U.S. House race are now both saying they want their supporters to rank the other Republican as their second choice.

After losing the special election to Democrat Mary Peltola, former Gov. Sarah Palin said she’s no longer urging her voters to ignore the new system.

“I had to swallow my pride, because here I am saying, ‘These are the cards that we’ve been dealt,'” Palin said. “This is the rule of the road now. We have ranked choice voting, and until that’s gone, we have to rank the red.”

Palin spoke Sunday at a sparsely attended rally at the Dena’ina Center in Anchorage, sponsored by a political action committee called Patriot Freedom PAC. Palin was preceded on stage by entertainers imitating Tina Turner and James Brown.

Her Republican opponent, Nick Begich, presented a more business-like image at a Chamber of Commerce luncheon the next day, in the same building. He said he was happy to hear Palin has adopted the “rank the red” message, but he emphasized their differences.

“For most people that I speak with, they’re looking for someone who’s serious about the state of Alaska. Not somebody who’s going to bring a James Brown impersonator from Chicago and do backflips on a stage. People who are actually going to work hard and solve the problems of Alaskans,” Begich said.

The friction between the two candidates is barely concealed, and sometimes not at all. Palin blames Begich for attacking her from the first days of his campaign. He’s not disavowing his anti-Palin campaign ads. The jabs undercut their “rank the red” message, which could leave room for Peltola to win again in November.

Palin, embracing the MAGA-wing of the Republican movement, has talked about her admiration for the House Freedom Caucus, which includes firebrands Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Jim Jordan of Ohio. She’s been endorsed by a related group, called the House Freedom Fund.

Begich said if he’s elected, the only caucus he’s sure he’d join is the Republican caucus.

“We have to stop thinking of politics like political entertainment,” he said. “This is one of the big problems that we’ve experienced as a nation for the last decade … That degrades our opportunity to govern properly, and to represent our people properly.”

Begich and Libertarian candidate Chris Bye attended the Chamber luncheon in person. Rep. Peltola participated by Zoom from Sitka. Palin sent a video.

Find more election coverage and voter resources at alaskapublic.org/elections.

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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.