Standing Between Sarah Palin and Congress: Santa Claus

Bernie Sanders supporter from North Pole, Alaska, wants to 'legislate for greater good'
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 27, 2022 11:05 AM CDT
Standing Between Sarah Palin and Congress: Santa Claus
In this Dec. 28, 2016, photo, Santa Claus, a city council member in North Pole, Alaska, displays his Facebook page outside North Pole City Hall.   (Eric Engman/Fairbanks Daily News-Miner via AP)

If Sarah Palin wants a seat in Congress, she'll first have to get past Santa Claus. That's the legal name of a city council member in—where else?—North Pole, Alaska, who's one of almost 50 people battling Palin for the state's only congressional seat. As you might expect, he sports a flowing white beard and a twinkle in his eye—"though, as a Bernie Sanders supporter, he does not exploit elf labor," reports the Guardian. In a 2020 profile, the Anchorage Daily News described the then-73-year-old medical-marijuana-using cancer survivor and vegetarian monk who long ago took a religious vow of poverty as "a left-leaning city council member in a town redder than Rudolph's nose."

"Alaska is known for kind of having characters up here," Claus, who changed his name from Thomas O'Connor in 2005, tells the Guardian. "I would certainly be well within that tradition." While he expects his name to give him a boost among voters, he says he's serious about the work to be done in support of Medicare for All, racial justice, corporate accountability, and child welfare—a cause close to his heart. After watching children fall through the cracks of foster care systems while serving as former special assistant deputy police commissioner for New York City, per KMSP, he changed his name in part for the recognition and set out on a countrywide "Santa Bless the Children Tour," meeting with legislators and governors, including then-Alaska Gov. Palin.

"We met very briefly, but she had set up a meeting with six of her different department heads, which was quite unusual for a governor to do. So I was appreciative," says Claus, who's not affiliated with any party, tells the Guardian. He expects a butting of heads now, given Donald Trump's endorsement of his opponent. "We have disparate views on a variety of subjects," he says. "But there's always common ground and one's willing to make the effort to find it and then legislate for greater good." If he wins the opportunity to complete the late Congressman Don Young's term, which wraps up in January, he says he won't run again. But until then, "for some positive change, I'd like to do my little part." His campaign budget: no more than $400, per KMSP. (Read more Santa Claus stories.)

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