By BECKY BOHRER Associated Press JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — Alaska voters are facing an election unlike any they’ve seen, with 48 candidates running to succeed the man who had held the state’s only U.S. House seat for 49 years.

While some of the candidates in this week’s special primary have name recognition, including Sarah Palin and Santa Claus — yes, Santa Claus — many are relative unknowns or political novices — a fishing guide, a contractor, a gold miner who went to prison for allegedly threatening federal land managers.

The huge number of candidates and the short timeline for holding the election after Republican U.S. Rep. Don Young’s death on March 18 has some voters overwhelmed and scrambling to learn more about their options. This will be the first election under a system approved by voters in 2020 that ends party primaries, meaning all candidates are on the same one-page ballot.

The four candidates who win the most votes will advance to an August special election, in which ranked choice voting will be used. The winner of that contest will serve the remainder of Young’s term, which ends in January. A separate set of elections later this year will decide who serves a two-year term beginning in January.

Max Sumner, a general contractor from Wasilla running for the seat as a Republican, said he’s as serious about his bid “as anyone else that knows they aren’t going to win.” He said he was interested in being part of the “first experiment” under the new elections process and in saying he had run for Congress. “I don’t agree with the government being run by career politicians. I think it should be like a couple terms and you’re out,” he said.

He said he voted for himself and is asking others to do so but isn’t campaigning. He said he’s also pulling for another Republican in the race, Josh Revak, a state senator who was co-chair of Young’s reelection campaign and has been endorsed by Young’s widow.

In all, there are 16 Republican candidates including Palin, a former Alaska governor; Nick Begich, a businessman from a political family of prominent Democrats; former state lawmaker John Coghill; and Tara Sweeney, who also was a co-chair of Young’s campaign and who has been endorsed by a group representing leaders of the state’s influential Alaska Native regional corporations.

Nearly half the candidates running, 22, are independents. That includes Al Gross, an orthopedic surgeon who ran for Senate in 2020 with support from the state Democratic party, and a self-described “independent, progressive, democratic socialist” whose legal name is Santa Claus and who serves on the city council for the community of North Pole.