Fourth-place finisher for U.S. Senate drops out of the race

ANCHORAGE (AP) — A little-known candidate for the U.S. Senate race in Alaska has suspended his campaign, hoping not to divide the GOP vote during the general election by throwing his support to a fellow Republican backed by former President Donald Trump.

Buzz Kelley, who finished fourth in the primary race, said his motivation for suspending the campaign on Sept. 12 came after Republicans Sarah Palin and Nick Begich lost to Democrat Mary Peltola in the special general election for the state’s U.S. House seat left vacant with the death in March of U.S. Rep. Don Young.

“After the Peltola victory, the divide-and-conquer of Sarah and Nick, I don’t want to be any part of that for the Senate race,” Kelley told The Associated Press.

“I feel like Kelly Tshibaka is the best shot, and so (I am) asking anybody who supported me or my ideas if they can now throw their support behind Kelly Tshibaka,” he said. Others in the race are incumbent U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, also a Republican, and Democrat Pat Chesbro.

Alaska voters in 2020 approved a new voting system in which party primaries have been replaced by an open primary. The top four vote-getters regardless of party affiliation move on to the general election, in which ranked choice voting is used.

Under ranked voting, ballots are counted in rounds. A candidate can win outright with more than 50% of the vote in the first round. If no one hits that threshold, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated. Voters who chose that candidate as their top pick have their votes count for their next choice. Rounds continue until two candidates remain, and whoever has the most votes wins.

Murkowski received 45% of the vote in the primary, followed by Tshibaka with 39% and Chesbro with 7%. Kelley finished fourth with 2% of the vote.

The timing of his campaign suspension was on purpose, Kelley said. Had he dropped out by the Sept. 5 deadline, the fifth-place candidate would have replaced him on the general election ballot. “I didn’t want to muddy the water, so now there’s only three candidates in the race,” he said.

 

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