Mary Peltola becomes first Alaska Native elected to Congress
Anchorage Daily News reported on Wednesday that Democrat Mary Peltola won Alaska’s special U.S. House race and is set to become the first Alaska Native in Congress, after votes were tabulated Wednesday in the state’s first ranked choice election.
Peltola topped Republican former Gov. Sarah Palin after ballots were tallied and votes for third-place GOP candidate Nick Begich III were redistributed to his supporters’ second choices. Peltola, a Yup’ik former state lawmaker who calls Bethel home, is now slated to be the first woman to hold Alaska’s lone U.S. House seat.
If results are confirmed as expected by the state review board later this week, she will succeed U.S. Rep. Don Young, the Republican who held the office for nearly five decades — since before Peltola was born. The special election was triggered by Young’s death in March.
“I feel like I need to catch my breath for a minute,” Peltola said in the moment after results were announced in a live video by state election officials in Juneau. Peltola was surrounded by family and campaign staff at an Anchorage office.
“What’s most important is that I’m an Alaskan being sent to represent all Alaskans. Yes, being Alaska Native is part of my ethnicity, but I’m much more than my ethnicity,” she said.
The special election determines who will serve out the remainder of Young’s term, which ends in January. Another election in November will determine who holds the seat for the full two-year term that begins in January.
Peltola, Palin and Begich said after results were announced Wednesday that they intend to remain in the November race.
Peltola was raised in rural villages and lives in Bethel. She is a mother of four, stepmother of three, and grandmother of two. She served in the state House between 1999 and 2009, representing the Bethel region. During her time in the Legislature, she led the Bush Caucus, bringing together lawmakers representing communities in Alaska off the road system and building a reputation as someone who can work across party lines.
While in the Legislature, Peltola’s path overlapped with Palin’s as governor. Both politicians were pregnant while in office. They traded friendly text messages on election day earlier this month.
Peltola is now set to head to Washington to serve out the rest of Young’s term. On Wednesday, she said she remains focused on the November race and winning the two-year seat. She said she would prioritize setting up constituent services for Alaska’s lone U.S. House office that were discontinued in recent weeks, in addition to reaching out to future colleagues in the House and to Alaska Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan. She said she did not yet have an itinerary for traveling to the nation’s capital.
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Source: “Democrat Mary Peltola wins special U.S. House election, will be first Alaska Native elected to Congress.” Anchorage Daily News. August 31, 2022