Al Gross, an independent U.S. Senate candidate in Alaska that is now polling nearly even with Republican incumbent Dan Sullivan, has some roots in New Jersey.
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.
Alaska appears to be offering Democrats with an unexpected opportunity to pick up a U.S. Senate seat through Gross, an orthopedic surgeon, commercial fisherman who has picked up steam as a first-time candidate for public office – some of it due to an incident where he killed a bear in self-defense.
A New York Times/Siena College poll earlier this week had Sullivan up by eight points; the same poll Donald Trump leading Joe Biden in the reliably Republican state by six points.
But a Harstad Strategic Research poll released yesterday puts the race in a dead heat: Gross 47%, Sullivan 46%.
Both parties have now reserved millions in television time in Alaska. Gross reported raising $9 million since July 1, much of it following the death of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg.
The Cook Political Report has moved the race from Likely Republican to Lean Republicans.