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Alaska U.S. Senate candidate Al Gross. (Photo: Dr. Al Gross for U.S. Senate.)

Candidate in Alaska special House race comes from a N.J. family

Al Gross’s grandfather was N.J. Progressive Party vice chair when Henry Wallace ran for President

By David Wildstein, March 28 2022 2:47 pm

A candidate for an open House seat in Alaska has ties to New Jersey.

Dr. Al Gross, who ran a strong but unsuccessful bid for a U.S. Senate seat in Alaska in 2020, will seek the seat left vacant by the death of 25-term Republican Don Young on March 18 at age 88.

His father, Avrum Gross, grew up in South Orange and West Orange before moving to Alaska in the 1960s.

After law school, Avrum Gross took a job working for the Alaska Legislative Affairs Agency – their version of the Office of Legislative Services – where he forged a friendship with a young state legislator and bush pilot named Jay Hammond.

After Hammond was elected governor in 1974 – he defeated a former Democratic governor by just 287 votes statewide – he picked Av Gross, a Democrat, as the Alaska State Attorney General.

Al Gross’ grandfather, Joel, was a lawyer in Newark and chaired the Essex County United Jewish Appeal.   In 1948, when former Vice President Henry Wallace mounted an independent campaign for the presidency, Joel Gross served as vice chairman of the newly-formed Independent Progressive Party.  He previously served as an executive board member of the New Jersey Independent Citizens League.

His uncle, Benedict Gross, is a mathematics professor and former Dean at Harvard.

Gross is an orthopedic surgeon, commercial fisherman who won some notice after he ran ads about how he killed a bear in self-defense.

Al Gross took on Republican U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan as an independent with the backing of the Alaska Democratic Party.  He lost, 54%-41% despite public polling showing the race to be tight.

Alaska election officials have scheduled a June 11 primary, with the top four vote-getters advancing to an August 16 special election where ranked choice voting will be utilized to pick a new Member of Congress.

Gross says he’ll also run in the November general election for a full term.

Already in the race is 44-year-old software company executive Nick Begich III, a Republican whose grandfather was Young’s predecessor.

Young won a 1973 special election after Rep. Nick Begich, a Democrat, was declared dead.

Begich had been campaigning for re-election to a second term when a small plane carrying him and House Majority Leader Hale Boggs on a campaign swing in Alaska went missing.  The plane or the remains of the two congressmen were never found.   Begich was posthumously re-elected in 1972, defeating Young by twelve percentage points.

Boggs also had ties to New Jersey.  His daughter was Barbara Boggs Sigmund, a former mayor of Princeton, Mercer County Freeholder, and a candidate for the 1989 Democratic gubernatorial nomination.  His grandson,  Paul Sigmund, had also been a Mercer County Freeholder.

Begich III is the nephew of Mark Begich, a Democrat who served one term in the U.S. Senate before Sullivan unseated him in 2014.  Another uncle is Tom Begich, a Democrat who currently serves in the Alaska State Senate.

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