Ketchikan is in for a short and serious courtship.
A special primary election to fill Alaska's lone seat in the U.S. House of Representatives is scheduled for June 11. The special general election will be Aug. 16, coinciding with Alaska's regular primary election.
The seat opened when Congressman Don Young, who carried the standard for the 49th state for 49 years, died March 18 while en route to Ketchikan for a weekend with the community.
The field of candidates totaled 51 by Friday's filing deadline.
Among the candidates are 19 from Anchorage, 10 from Fairbanks, and one from Wrangell.
The other candidates are from Bethel, Nikiski, Glennallen, Houston, Kodiak, Soldotna, Wasilla, Juneau, Eagle River, Fort Wainwright, Copper Center and the North Pole. Two candidates list Montana and California addresses on the Alaska Division of Elections website.
The most notable name on the list is Santa Claus out of the North Pole. The Wrangell candidate is science fiction writer Otto H. Florschultz, a Republican.
Seventeen of the candidates are registered as Republicans, compared to six Democrats and three Libertarians. The other candidates are Alaska Independent, nonpartisan or undeclared. One whose contact number is listed in southern California registered with the American Independent Party.
The candidates with name recognition in Ketchikan and Southeast are Republican Nick Begich of Anchorage, the grandson of Nick Begich Sr., who occupied the congressional seat before Young. The elder Begich died in an aircraft accident in Alaska in the early 1970s.
Another is John Coghill Jr., a Republican of Fairbanks who served in both the state House of Representatives and the state Senate, four years as the latter body's majority leader.
Al Gross, a nonpartisan of Anchorage, is known as an orthopedic surgeon and commercial fisherman who conducted a campaign as the Democrats' candidate for U.S. Senate against incumbent Sen. Dan Sullivan in 2020.
Andrew Halcro, an Anchorage nonpartisan, served in the state House and unsuccessfully sought the governor's office in 2006 as an Independent. His podcast is featured on the Anchorage Daily News website.
Former Gov. Sarah Palin resigned mid-term to seek the vice presidency in 2008 with the late Sen. John McCain. She is a Republican.
While the names are familiar in Ketchikan, they are not all well known. Therein explains the effect of the loss of Young for the First City.
Young came to visit regularly through the decades and relished bringing his colleagues along. He knew Ketchikan as well as it knew itself, and he often advanced local concerns in Congress before being asked.
His relationship with Ketchikan will not be quickly replaced. Nor does the community know at this point which candidate would most likely be sincerely engaged here as Young proved to be.
As of today, the relative unknowns to Ketchikan have 10 weeks to garner the community's support. The import of that esteem cannot be underestimated. In past statewide gubernatorial elections had only about 250 local voters opted for another candidate the outcome would have been different.
It isn't imperative only for the successful congressional candidate to curry Ketchikan's favor, but the Division of Elections has its hands full, too. This is a special election at a time unfamiliar to voters. It has the added feature of being a mail election, another aspect strange to voters.
And, like for the candidates, the state has only weeks to widely inform voters of the procedural changes.
The circumstances aren't what was wished for, of course. But, given the situation, a timely outcome will take place.
Ketchikan and southern Southeast will join with all Alaskans and choose a new suitor.