Yes Alaska, There is a Santa Claus
An extended conversation with a Bernie-loving, union-repping, poverty-embracing monk named Santa Claus who wants to be the next congressman from Alaska.
When Rep. Don Young died this past March, the 88-year-old Republican left a walrus penis-shaped hole in Alaska state politics. After nearly half a century in Congress, Young expired as the longest-serving Republican representative in his party’s history, having earned his reputation as a legislative maniac who casually dropped racist slurs in radio interviews, stuck his hand in a steel bear trap to show how much it didn’t hurt, and once held a ten-inch knife to fellow Republican John Boehner’s throat in an argument about earmarks. That Young was reelected dozens of times is a testament to just how weird Alaskan politics can get — and the fact that the race to finish his final term in office boasts a crowded field of almost fifty official candidates (including Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, and at least one member of the seditionist Alaskan Independence Party) is, in its own way, something of a fitting tribute to his outsized, outrageous legacy.
Among those vying to complete Young’s term are a who’s who of Alaskan politics, including Nick Begich, whose grandfather’s mysterious aviation disappearance paved the way for Young’s first term in office; iconic failed governor-turned-failed reality TV star Sarah Palin; and the gravelly-voiced, bushy-bearded mayor pro tem of the town of North Pole named (what else?) Santa Claus.
Describing himself as “an independent, progressive, democratic socialist” who “shares many of U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders’s positions,” Claus (his legal name since 2005 when, during a moment of monastic self-reflection in Lake Tahoe, he heard a passing motorist shout “I love you Santa Claus”) might first come across as a gimmick candidate running on a platform of self-promotion and ego. But after spending his early years in law enforcement, where he personally saw “a lot of children were falling through the cracks” in the system, Santa’s commitment to child welfare and decades of advocacy work feels both genuine and absolute. And after speaking with him last week, it became immediately clear that not only is Claus utterly serious about his run to fill Young’s seat, he could very well be the best candidate for the job.
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