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Pauly Denetclaw

Alaska state elections officials were releasing vote counts on Wednesday, the first day since the special primary in which counts were held. Counts also are planned for Friday and Tuesday.

With 132,730 votes counted, Palin had 28.3 percent, followed by Begich with 19.3 percent and Gross with 12.8 percent. Two Indigenous candidates are in fourth and fifth place for the primary. Democrat Mary Peltola, Yup'ik, had 8.7 percent and Republican Tara Sweeney, Iñupiat, 5.5 percent.

Peltola served 10 years in the Alaska State Legislature and is currently the executive director of the Kuskokwim River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission. She is the only “progressive Alaskan Native candidate” on the ballot, according to her website.

Sweeney was the first, and only, Alaska Native assistant secretary of Indian Affairs for the Department of the Interior and co-chair of the Alaska Federation of Natives (AFN).

Sweeney in a statement said she would meet with her campaign team and supporters in the coming days to determine "next steps" after she said it appeared that she would "fall just short" of advancing to the special election.

It’s unclear how many mail-in ballots have yet to arrive. About 80 percent of the votes are still coming in. Some 130,000 have already been counted.

The last slot for the general election has yet to be called by the AP. Though in the most recent ballot count, Peltola gained almost an entire percentage point of the votes.

In total, four Indigenous candidates ran in the special election. The other two candidates were Independent Laurel Foster, Cupik, and Democrat Emil Notti, Athabascan. Foster got 274 votes, or .2 percent of votes. Notti got 1,649, or 1.2 percent of the votes.

Republican former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, Republican Nick Begich and independent Al Gross have advanced to the August special election for the state's only U.S. House seat.

Palin, Begich and Gross, an orthopedic surgeon, were among 48 candidates in last Saturday's special primary for the seat, which was left vacant following the death in March of Republican Rep. Don Young. Young had held the seat for 49 years.

The top four vote-getters in the special primary advance to a special election, set for Aug. 16, in which ranked choice voting will be used. The winner of that race will serve the remainder of Young's term, which ends in January.

The election was unusual in that it was conducted primarily by mail. It also was the first election under a system approved by voters in 2020 that ends party primaries and institutes ranked voting for general elections.

The election went on as scheduled following a legal fight over ballot access issues, with the state defending itself against accusations that the manner in which the election was held discriminated against voters with visual impairments.

Palin, the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee, held significant name recognition in a field that also included current and former state legislators and a North Pole city council member whose name is Santa Claus. Many of the candidates were relatively unknowns.

Palin told The Associated Press on Wednesday she felt good about the campaign she's run but wanted to see the final numbers.

The campaigns of Begich and Gross have reminded voters Palin resigned as governor and questioned her motives in running for the House.

Palin "quit on Alaska," Gross said.

"She had a chance to stay in the fight for Alaska, but she chose to chase cheap fame," Begich's campaign said in a fundraising appeal.

Palin, making her first bid for elected office since resigning as governor partway through her term in 2009, attributed her resignation to an onslaught of records requests and ethics complaints she said were frivolous and had become distractions.

An August primary and November general election will decide who serves a two-year House term beginning in January. Palin, Begich and Gross are running in that race. Peltola and Sweeney also are candidates.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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