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The Politics of Quirk in the 49th State

Former Gov. Sarah Palin is only one of the many interesting politicians on this list. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Former Gov. Sarah Palin is only one of the many interesting politicians on this list. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Alaska was not a state (the 49th)  until 1959. It is the largest in area, least densely populated and is situated away — far away — from the lower 48. No wonder it does politics its own way. Don’t believe it?

  • According to a 2015 report, more than 54 percent of the state’s voters are either nonpartisan or undeclared.
  • Alaska’s Gov. Bill Walker is a former Republican who became an independent. In 2014, Walker formed a ticket with Alaska’s Democratic gubernatorial nominee Byron Mallott running as Walker’s running mate for lieutenant governor to challenge Republican Gov. Sean Parnell. The two were successful and even picked up the endorsement of former Gov. Sarah Palin, who was Parnell’s running mate when he ran for lieutenant governor in 2006.
  • The website of the state’s Alaskan Independence Party says its “primary goal is merely a vote on secession.” Todd Palin, the husband of former Gov. Sarah Palin, was found to be a member of the party until 2002. Former Republican Gov. Walter “Wally” Hickel ran for governor on the Alaskan Independence Party ticket and won.
  • In 2010, When Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski lost in her primary to tea party candidate Joe Miller, Murkowski ran a write-in race, and won, making her the first successful write-in candidate for Senate since Strom Thurmond in 1954.
  • In 2014, when Democratic Sen. Mark Begich lost and Gov. Parnell lost, it marked only the fifth time in 50 years in which an incumbent senator and governor lost re-election in the same state, according to Smart Politics.
  • Both Palin and Hickel left the governorship early. Palin after her failed vice presidential bid and Hickel to become secretary of the Interior under President Richard Nixon.

Contact Garcia at and Follow him on Twitter @EricMGarcia


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