Court Removes Republican Candidate From Ballot

( Republican candidate Tara Sweeney will not move forward to the special election for the open seat on the House representing Alaska.

The Supreme Court of the state ruled over the weekend that Sweeney should remain off the ballot, even though the candidate who finished in third place decided to drop out.

Alaska’s high court issued the order over the weekend, upholding the decision of Judge William Morse of the Superior Court, who sided with the decision by Gail Fenumiai, the director of the Divisions Election, to not allow Sweeney onto the ballot.

Sweeney finished in fifth place during the special primary held on June 11. The top four finishers in that primary advanced to the special election to fill the vacant seat in the House.

The controversy arose, though, when the person who finished in third place in the race, independent candidate Al Gross, decided to drop out of the race. Since Sweeney won’t be added to the ballot, that will leave three candidates for the seat — Democrat Mary Peltola and Republicans Nick Begich and Sara Palin.

The seat is vacant because Republican Don Young died in March. He occupied that seat for the past 49 years.

There were 48 candidates who all ran in the special primary to fill Young’s seat. The top four vote-getters advance to the special election, according to Alaska’s election rules. There are no separate party primaries in the state.

Even though Sweeney finished in fifth place in that primary, she was hoping to be added to the ballot after Gross decided to drop out. But, Fenumiai ruled that since Gross dropped out of the election less than 64 days before the August 16 special election was to be held, the election division didn’t have to add Sweeney to the ballot, per state law.

Three voters sued the state so that Sweeney would be put on the ballot. They claimed that officials with the election division misinterpreted Alaska law, and that the deadline for withdrawals don’t apply in the case of special elections like this one.

But, the Superior Court judge ruled against those plaintiffs, and the state Supreme Court agreed. Following the decision, Begich commented:

“The law was clear, and I’m pleased the courts affirmed such. Now, it’s time to take our campaign to the voters in the general election and earn their support.”

Sweeney released a statement of her own following the decision, in which she said she was disappointed she wouldn’t have the opportunity to be in the general election. That being said, she announced her intention to run as part of the other primary for the regular two-year term, with the general election being held for that in November.

As she said:

“Alaska politics has a history of comeback stories, and I look forward to writing the next chapter by fighting to represent Alaska.”

Sweeney never sued over the issue, and part of the reason might be that the special election will only determine the person who will fill the vacant seat through the rest of this year.