ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Mary Peltola, a Democrat and the first Alaska Native elected to Congress, on Wednesday won reelection to the U.S. House of Representatives. She will now serve a full two-year term after she prevailed in an August special election to carry out the final months of a term previously held by Rep. Don Young.
Young died in March, triggering a monthslong race shaped by the question of who would succeed the 49-year Republican congressman. Peltola, a former state lawmaker from Bethel, emerged Wednesday as the state’s pick with nearly 49% of first-choice votes in the ranked-choice November election.
Following tabulation of ranked-choice votes late Wednesday, Peltola had a clear victory over Republican former Gov. Sarah Palin in a 55% to 45% split.
Peltola made Young’s legacy a key part of her campaign. During her brief stint in Congress before ramping up her campaign ahead of the November election, Peltola — whose parents campaigned and worked for Young — hired former staffers from the Republican’s office in a show of bipartisanship.
Peltola faced two Republican challengers: Palin, who returned to state politics after a 13-year hiatus since quitting as governor; and businessman Nick Begich III, the Republican grandson of Nick Begich the first, a Democrat who was elected to Congress in 1972 but disappeared in a plane crash.
Palin earned 26% of first-choice votes. Begich earned 23%. Libertarian Chris Bye had less than 2%. Of Begich’s voters, two-thirds ranked Palin second — not enough for her to come from behind and overtake Peltola for the victory.
The race was shaped by bickering between the two Republicans. Palin had backing from former President Donald Trump, who held a rally in Anchorage in July. Begich had support from the Alaska Republican Party. Palin made her disdain for ranked-choice voting a hallmark of her campaign, even as Peltola embraced the new voting method, saying it gives people “a better vote in their democracy.”
In the final weeks of the campaign, Peltola emerged as the front-runner, with a heavy cash advantage over her Republican opponents, boosted by backing from national Democratic leaders and an endorsement from Republican U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski.
With a tenure of less than three months in Congress, Peltola has made fish policy and food security key parts of her agenda.
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