Alaska’s late Congressman Don Young served the people of the state for 49 years. His first-ever election was a special election to fill the seat left vacant by Democrat Nick Begich, who died in a plane crash with House Majority Leader Hale Boggs in 1973.

Young ran against Native American leader Democrat Emil Notti in the 1973 special election. Now, 49 years later, the 89-year-old Notti is running again. He says he doesn’t want to make a career in politics. He just wants to fill out the remainder of Young’s term.

Notti will be joined on the campaign trail by 50 other candidates, including former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, who announced her candidacy a few hours before the filing deadline.

Anchorage Daily News:

Palin and [businessman Max] Sumner filed with roughly an hour left before the 5 p.m. filing deadline. The race had reached the point where everyone and their brother had entered: Sumner’s brother Jesse, a member of the Matanuska-Susitna Borough Assembly, said he was also filing to run before the deadline.

Another Friday filer was Andrew Halcro, who faced Palin in a 2006 race for governor. Palin won that race. Halcro, a former Republican state lawmaker who is now running unaffiliated with a party, said Friday that he’s “glad we’re getting the band back together.”

Indeed, the slate of candidates brings together many prominent Alaskans, as political figures young and old faced a prospect not seen in the state in nearly 50 years — a U.S. House race without an incumbent.

That’s a lot of pent-up ambition to deal with. But like other races with dozens of candidates, eventually it will probably come down to name recognition. And few can match the name ID of the former vice presidential candidate of the United States, Sarah Palin.

Nevertheless, there are some truly wild and wacky candidates on the ballot.

For example — Santa Claus. Thomas O’Connor changed his legal name in 2005 and now lives — appropriately — in North Pole, Alaska.

He is not affiliated with any party but describes himself as an “independent, progressive, Democratic socialist.” He also said he would not hire any staff or accept campaign donations.

“Santa believes all members of Congress must find common ground, work together to represent their diverse constituencies, and move our nation forward in a productive manner that ensures happiness, peace, good health, and prosperity for everyone living in the United States, including Alaska,” his website says.

Then there’s “normal person” John Callahan.

“My greatest qualification is that I’m a fully functional adult,” said John Callahan, a public affairs officer for the Alaska Air National Guard. He filed the necessary paperwork at the Anchorage office of the Division of Elections and paid the $100 fee just an hour before the 5 p.m. deadline. “We’ve been sending weirdos to D.C. for 50 years, and I feel like it’s just time we sent a normal person.”

To make matters even more confusing, there will first be a “non-partisan primary” where the top 4 vote-getters will advance to a runoff election. That election will feature “ranked voting” by mail ballot only. Good luck with that.

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