Notes from the trail: National writers ponder ranked choice ballot, Murkowski’s chances improving with Democrats, and Palin’s polling predicament


An unusual number of national writers have focused on Alaska political and election analysis stories over the past few days. Must Read Alaska is summarizing a few of them here and providing links, in case you missed them:

Ken Rudin’s Political Junkie

The podcast by a former political editor of NPR is a lot of fun, even if the host Ken Rudin is an unrepentant progressive. The first half of the show was liberal handwringing over Liz Cheney’s chances of winning in Wyoming. That’s worth listening to in order to understand how the Left thinks about Cheney. But once Rudin gave Must Read Alaska‘s Suzanne Downing the microphone halfway through the show, he didn’t get a word in edgewise as she went through the Alaska ranked choice voting mess, Sarah Palin, Nick Begich, and Mary Peltola on the ballot for the special general election. The podcast is here.

What It Will Take For Lisa Murkowski To Win Reelection In Alaska, at FiveThirtyEight, the polling analysis website

“If anyone could be called a political survivor, it’s Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. She’s held office for three-plus terms while never winning a majority of the vote in a general election. She even overcame a primary defeat with a write-in campaign in 2010. And despite anger from some in the state’s GOP, she has operated as one of the more independent-minded members of the U.S. Senate since she was appointed in December 2002.

“Now seeking her fourth full term in 2022, Murkowski faces a fresh challenge: Defeating a fellow Republican in Alaska’s new electoral system that combines the nation’s first top-four primary with ranked choice voting in the general election. Helpfully, recent polling has given us some insight into how Murkowski might defeat her GOP challenger, former commissioner of Alaska’s Department of Administration Kelly Tshibaka, whom former President Donald Trump has endorsed. With support from Democrats, independents and possibly just enough Republicans, Murkowski could still be in the Senate come 2023.” Read the story here.

A Win for the GOP Looks Like a Defeat for Palin, at the New York Sun

Behind the paywall, this story by Russell Payne in the New York Sun predicts that Sarah Palin could lose her quest for Congress:

“With Alaska’s special House election coming up on August 16, the race is looking closer than expect — and is shaping up as a likely defeat for Governor Palin. Key to this story is the mechanics of Alaska’s new ranked choice voting election system, which the Last Frontier is using after voters approved the change in the 2020 election.”

“This creates a system with ’rounds’ of voting — though voters only cast one ballot. If any candidate wins a simple majority in the first round, he or she is declared the winner.

“If no candidate wins a majority, then the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated and their votes are redistributed to the voters’ second choices. This process repeats itself until only two candidates remain and the candidate with the most votes wins.
The current race is to fill the seat of Congressman Don Young, who died in March after serving as Alaska’s representative for 50 years. Three candidates remain in the race: Mrs. Palin, Nicholas Begich III, and an Alaska state representative, Mary Peltola.

The independent candidate Al Gross placed third in the primary but dropped out on June 20, saying that ‘it is just too hard to run as a nonpartisan candidate in this race.’

“Mr. Begich is the grandson of Representative Nicholas Begich Sr. Young took his House seat after Begich Sr. disappeared during a flight to Juneau from Anchorage in 1972. Mr. Begich’s family is a political dynasty in Alaska. Two of his children — Senator Begich and an Alaska state senator, Tom Begich, are both Democrats.

“Mr. Begich, the son of Nicholas Begich Jr., is himself a lifelong Republican, arguing that ‘Don Young and I share many of the same views on a number of policies.'” Behind the paywall, the story is here.

Woke billionaire trashed founding fathers, but profited off Eskimo oil, in the New York Post

This story by New York Post writer Dana Kennedy talks about the woke history of David Rubenstein, former Anchorage Daily News owner Alice Rogoff, Ellie Rubenstein, and the Rubenstein financial legacy here in Alaska, which stretches back to the Carter Administration, where David Rubenstein first gained an understanding of Alaska’s oil riches and the indigenous people who could be persuaded to make him a lot of money.

The author quotes Dan Fagan of the Dan Fagan Show on KENI radio, and Suzanne Downing of Must Read Alaska. It discusses Alice Rogoff’s creation of Bill Walker as governor in 2014. The whole story is at this link.

Why Trump is wrong to call Alaska’s ranked choice system rigged, by the Poynter Institute

“Alaska voters this year are using a new method to elect members of Congress that former President Donald Trump dismissed in remarks in Anchorage as ‘ranked choice crap voting.’

“Trump has perpetuated dangerous falsehoods for years that elections are ‘rigged.’ Now he says the use of ranked choice voting in Alaska is another part of rigged elections.

“Ranked choice voting is a system by which voters rank candidates in order of preference, rather than choosing a single candidate. Election democracy experts say the system is not rigged; instead, it maximizes voter satisfaction by elevating the most widely supported candidates, rather than extreme candidates who are able to win races with large fields of candidates based on small bases of support.

“Trump held a rally July 9 to promote Kelly Tshibaka, the state’s former Department of Administration commissioner, who is running against fellow Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who voted to impeach Trump after the Jan. 6 Capitol riot…” All the goods are at this link.

Ranked-Choice Voting Makes Joke of Alaska Politics, by Sarah Montalbano, in the Wall Street Journal

Behind the Journal’s paywall, this story by Alaskan writer Montalbano says “Advocates of ranked-choice voting say it elevates centrist candidates, keeps campaigns positive, and promotes debate of important issues. That isn’t how it’s going in Alaska. The Last Frontier is in the middle of an experiment that has confused voters, popularized fringe candidates and could lead to unrepresentative outcomes.”

Montalbano explains: “In November 2020, voters in Alaska approved a ballot initiative eliminating traditional partisan primaries and implementing ranked-choice voting in general elections. The measure, which was financed by national progressive advocacy groups, passed 50.55% to 49.45%—a margin of about 3,700 votes. The new format’s debut was scheduled for the Aug. 11 primary elections, but was advanced when Rep. Don Young died in March, triggering a special election.

The race to fill Young’s seat attracted a field of 48 candidates, including former Gov. Sarah Palin and City Councilman Santa Claus of North Pole. (Mr. Claus, who describes himself as a democratic socialist, in 2005 changed his legal name from Thomas Patrick O’Connor.) Primary voters on June 11 were asked to pick one candidate, with the top four vote-getters, regardless of party affiliation, moving on to the ranked-choice general election on Aug. 16.”

Montalbano is a Robert L. Bartley Fellow at the Journal, on loan from the Alaska Policy Forum.

You may be able to break through the Wall Street Journal paywall at this link.


  1. Russell Payne is a young reporter from Buffalo NY. He is likely getting his information from you and from Ivan Moore.

    This is what is known as a feedback loop and it has no value.

  2. Mike Porcaro helped sell ranked choice voting — convinced many! He’s also using his voice to push Lisa Murkowski in the ad that plays over and over, lying about how she’s “effective and respected.” How much is he personally making, producing ads for tyrannical Lisa? “Love of money,” not principle led — is selling Alaska out!

    • It is a troubling thing. As a businessman Porcaro has every right to engage in contracts which help his business. No issue here.

      He does disclose the fact he often works on ad campaigns which appear to be a cross purposes of his radio audience.

      While not illegal or unethical by Alaska standards, it is deep in the gray areas.
      A fair argument can be made he has a vested interest in pushing the positions of the candidates his firm engages. I wonder if this would be acceptable outside Alaska.

      One thing is certain. He bristles like Joe Biden when callers challenge him on ranked choice.

    • You are right about him being a charlatan, but he doesn’t control what ads are played on the station.

    • Porcaro helped Mark Begich start out his political career during his run for Anchorage mayor. I still won’t forgive him for having Mark on his show multiple tines, including one I clearly remember him saying “i love you Mark.” So much for Porcaro’s conservative credentials.

  3. Rank choice was designed by cheaters for the purposes of cheating. Rank, combined with mass mailing of ballots and electronic ballot counters means the end of honest elections in alaska.

    • Mark,
      You have a chance to vote on August 16. If you want Mary Peltola to win, and don’t care whether Begich or Palin wins if Mary is eliminated, then vote for Mary and sit down.
      If you want Palin to win, and don’t care whether Peltola or Begich wins if Sarah is eliminated, then vote for Sarah and sit down.
      If you want Nick to win and don’t care whether Peltola or Palin wins if Nick is eliminated, then vote for Nick and sit down.
      Most Dems will vote for Mary and stop. If you want someone other than Mary to win, rank the two Republican candidates. This is not crazy.

  4. The Alaska Congressional races are about one thing only – which candidates will stand by Trump when he becomes President again and begins the process of cleaning up the rot at the Dept. of Justice, FBI, intelligence agencies, et al and begins to investigate and prosecute individual members of Congress and other agencies for corruption, perjury, sedition and treason. We all know where Lisa Murkowski will land on this issue. Begich is an unknown but could very well turn out be just another stuffed shirt yuppie in DC. Palin could be a hand grenade in Congress, but she will probably remain loyal to Trump. Drain the Swamp – this could be our last chance!

  5. I continue to suspect that a factor in the Congressional race is that there are two women in the race and one male. Particularly in the critical first round of voting, cohesion amongst men may result in the elimination of one of the women. While I cannot point to research it has been my perception that women are more inclined to vote for women. This time, the cards may be re-shuffled. Identity politics is an odd animal.

  6. If there were only 2 names on the congressional ballot, Palin would win in a landslide. The only thing that will thwart her is a split vote with Begich.

  7. Lisa must have a lot of money backing her as she is on every channel and I am sick of changing the channel ! Likewise I am tired of her lies !

  8. The measure, which was financed by national progressive advocacy groups, passed 50.55% to 49.45%—a margin of about 3,700 votes.

    A margin of victory easily manipulated with the use of Dominion Voting Systems and our wonderful Governor has yet to do anything about it.

    Chris Kurka 2022!

  9. So many saying how Alaska voted for rank choice but I don’t think so. The ad campaign for the initiative focused on part two, eliminating dark money ( ironic as the ads were paid with dark money) I can’t recall part 1, rank choice being mentioned once. With ballot in hand most voters remember one thing, dark money bad. If they read part one in the voting booth it probably confused them because it’s nonsensical.

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