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Al Gross withdraws from Alaska’s U.S. House race

220611-Al-Gross-2-web.jpg
James Brooks
/
Alaska Beacon
Al Gross, candidate for U.S. House in Alaska’s special primary election, waves to supporters on Saturday, June 11, 2022.

Independent candidate Al Gross will withdraw from this year’s U.S. House races, he said Monday in a prepared statement released by his campaign.

In the statement, he urged supporters to consider voting for Democratic candidate Mary Peltola or Republican Tara Sweeney, but it wasn’t immediately clear whether Sweeney — now in fifth place in Alaska’s top-four primary — would be promoted to replace Gross.

A spokeswoman for the Alaska Division of Elections said officials there were considering the question.

Gross’ statement did not say why he is withdrawing, and he did not answer phone calls or text messages at his personal number.

The decision came with Gross poised to finish third in Alaska’s top-four special primary election for U.S. House.

“It is with great hope for Alaska’s future that I have decided to end my campaign to become our state’s next Congressman,” Gross’s statement said. “There are two outstanding Alaska Native women in this race who would both serve our state well, and I encourage my supporters to stay engaged and consider giving their first-place vote to whichever of them best matches their own values. Thank you for your support.”

Republican candidates Sarah Palin and Nick Begich III, are expected to finish first and second, respectively. Peltola is in fourth and Sweeney fifth.

The text of Alaska’s Better Elections Initiative, better known as Ballot Measure 2, says the person who received the fifth-most votes advances if “a candidate nominated at the primary election dies, withdraws, resigns, becomes disqualified from holding office for which the candidate is nominated, or is certified as being incapacitated in the manner prescribed by this section after the primary election and 64 days or more before the general election.”

Monday was 57 days before the Aug. 16 special general election for U.S. House.

But Scott Kendall, the attorney who was the lead author of the measure, said the 64-day provision applies to regular primary elections, not special elections. He believes the Department of Law and Division of Elections are working on a legal analysis and expects that analysis will result in Sweeney advancing to the special general election.

In that election, voters will use ranked-choice voting to decide which of four candidates will serve the remainder of Congressman Don Young’s term in office.

Young’s death in March triggered the special election.

Simultaneously with the special general election, candidates will run in a primary election, vying for a two-year term in the U.S. House.

Palin, Begich, Peltola, Gross and Sweeney all were expected to run for the full term, but Gross’ statement, if followed by an official withdrawal, would remove him from that race as well.

Gross, who unsuccessfully ran as a Democratic-supported independent in the 2020 U.S. Senate campaign, was opposed by Democrats in this year’s U.S. House race.

The Alaska Democratic Party referred to him as a “proven loser” and urged Democrats to vote for a Democratic candidate instead.

All other Democratic candidates have said they will withdraw from the full-term U.S. House race in order to consolidate support behind Peltola.

Some Republican candidates, including former state Sen. John Coghill, have also withdrawn after low finishes in the special primary.

Final unofficial voting results for the primary are expected Tuesday, with certified results Saturday. The deadline to withdraw from this year’s elections is noon Saturday.

About Alaska Beacon: Alaska Beacon is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Alaska Beacon maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Andrew Kitchenman for questions: info@alaskabeacon.com. Follow Alaska Beacon on Facebook and Twitter.