The Kenai Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center is seen on Wednesday, May 5, 2021, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

The Kenai Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center is seen on Wednesday, May 5, 2021, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Peltola, Begich confirmed for chamber forum

Kenai and Soldotna chambers of commerce will host the special general election candidates

Central peninsula residents will be able to pose questions to candidates vying for the late U.S. Rep. Don Young’s seat in Congress next week at a forum hosted by the Kenai and Soldotna chambers of commerce.

Two special general election candidates — Democrat Mary Peltola and Republican Nick Begich III — will attend the joint luncheon next Wednesday to answer questions. Republican Sarah Palin is not yet registered to attend.

Brett Perry, the executive director of the Kenai Chamber, said Monday that the forum will be an opportunity for the community to address the candidates directly.

“If you want your voice heard, come out and attend,” he said.

The state’s lone U.S. House of Representative seat was left vacant after Young — who held the position for 49 years — died on his way back home to Alaska in late March.

Of a total of 48 candidates looking to take Young’s place, Begich, Peltola, Palin and independent candidate Al Gross advanced to the special general election in June. A few weeks later, Gross announced he was withdrawing from the congressional election. Begich, Peltola and Palin are continuing to campaign for Alaska’s House seat.

This is also Alaska’s first year with its new ranked choice voting system, which was narrowly approved by voters in 2020.

According to the Alaska Division of Elections, to win the general election a candidate must receive over half of the first-choice votes. If no one wins over 50% plus one vote of the first choice-votes in round one, the election enters round two.

In round two the candidate with the least number of first-choice votes is eliminated. The ballots of the people whose first-choice candidate was eliminated are then redistributed to their second-choice selection. The vote redistribution process continues until only two candidates remain, and the one with more votes wins.

At next week’s forum, candidates will have the opportunity to respond to pre-submitted constituent questions from a moderator over lunch. The public will not have the chance to ask questions to the candidates directly on the day of the event, Perry said, unless they choose to stay longer after the luncheon concludes.

Perry said registration for the event indicates there will be a fair number of people in attendance. He also said the chamber is planning on more candidate forums for other races this election season.

To register for the U.S. House special election luncheon forum, visit the events tab on the Kenai Chamber website. The event, which includes a catered lunch, costs $15 for chamber members and $20 for nonmembers. Submit questions ahead of time via email to info@kenaichamber.org.

The 2022 Special General Election will be held on Aug. 16.

Early in-person voting will take place at various places on the Kenai Peninsula: Homer City Clerk’s Office, Kenai City Clerk’s Office, Seldovia City Clerk’s Office, Seward City Clerk’s Office and Soldotna Prep School from Aug. 1-15.

Applications for mail-in ballots must be received by the Division of Elections 10 days before the election. Mail-in ballots must be postmarked on or before election day to count for the special general election.

Write-in candidates for the U.S. House seat include Libertarian Chris Bye, independent Robert Ornelas, and Democrat Ernest Thomas, according to the Division of Elections.

For more information, visit https://www.elections.alaska.gov/.

Reach reporter Camille Botello at camille.botello@peninsulaclarion.com.

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