ALASKA — Democrat Mary Peltola will become the first woman to represent Alaska in the United States House of Representatives and the first Alaskan Native to serve in Congress.
The former state legislator and current tribal fisheries chief is the first Democrat to win a U.S. House race here in 50 years and will serve the remaining four months of the term left unfinished by the member’s death. Don Young Congress in March.
Peltola defeated Republican candidates Sarah Palin and Nick Begich in the ranked choice voting results announced Wednesday, Peltola’s 49th birthday. All three candidates, plus libertarian Chris Bye, will be on the ballot again in November as they stand for re-election for a full two-year term.
“I’m just extremely grateful to the Alaskans who trusted me and elected me to serve the remainder of Congressman Young’s term,” Peltola said as she prepared to leave a post-result event, “and I’m hopeful that I can continue his legacy of working for all Alaskans and thinking about how best to meet the needs of Alaskans here during the short siege, but of course focusing on November and the siege two years.
The results remain preliminary, but the number of votes in circulation should not change the results.
After the results were announced, Peltola was exuberant, celebrated with supporters and received a congratulatory call from President Joe Biden.
Palin denounced the ranked voting system, served cake to funders and called on Begich to step down from the race for the full term.
Begich said in a written statement that Wednesday’s results match “what pollsters have been telling us for months; Sarah Palin can’t win a statewide race because her unfavorable rating is so high.
Wednesday’s results indicated few Alaskans had problems voting in the state’s first-choice election. Only 295 ballots, or 0.15% of the votes cast, could not be counted for at least one candidate.
Alaskans for Better Elections, the group that backed the installation of ranked ballots, called the vote a success. Alaska Division of Elections officials, who ran an intensive education campaign for a year and a half, were also in the mood to celebrate the apparent success of that campaign, whose timeline was compressed after the Young’s death triggered a special election.
A special single-choice primary election in June — Alaska’s first election to be conducted primarily by mail — narrowed a field of 48 candidates to four, and the withdrawal of nonpartisan candidate Al Gross narrowed the options to the final three. .
Alaskans picked their preferences on Aug. 16, and Peltola was in the lead after Election Day with 39.7% of first-preference votes, followed by Palin with 30.9% and Begich with 27.8%.
This diagram shows the unofficial vote distribution for August 31, 2022 in Alaska’s first ranked election, a special election for the United States House. (Graphic by James Brooks/Alaska Beacon)
Palin could have won on Wednesday if two-thirds of Begich voters had chosen her as their second choice, but in Wednesday’s preliminary tally, 28.7% of Begich supporters chose Peltola as their second choice, and 20.9% chosen either a person or a writer. as a candidate who had already been eliminated.
The remaining votes weren’t enough for Palin to defeat Peltola’s lead. In Wednesday’s final tally, Peltola had 91,206 votes and Palin 85,987.
The result came even as Republicans turned out to vote in disproportionate numbers: Registered Republicans make up 24% of registered voters in the state, but made up 31% of voters in the election, according to analysis conducted by Will Muldoon, computer programmer from Juneau. Women, who represent 48.7% of the electorate, won 50.9% of the vote.
The result is not final, but Alaska Division of Elections Director Gail Fenumiai said she believes there are fewer than 1,000 ballots of all kinds left to count.
This work could be finished as early as Friday. After certification, applicants have five days to request a recount, and since the difference between first and second place was greater than 0.5%, the applicant will have to pay for any recounts.
Any legal challenges to the results must be filed by September 12. It is not yet known when Peltola will be sworn in and officially take up her seat.
Peltola received congratulatory messages from American senses Dan Sullivan and Lisa Murkowski, as well as various Alaskan and National Democrats and independent gubernatorial candidate Bill Walker.
Meanwhile, Palin spoke to reporters and supporters.
“We cannot be discouraged,” she said. “Actually, I think God prepared me for an outcome like this, believe it or not. I think God kind of gave me peace from the start.
The former governor said she does not expect to legally challenge the lawsuit, but will campaign against preferential-choice voting.
During an appearance with former President Donald Trump during his campaign, Palin and Trump urged voters to choose only one candidate.
That message was at odds with a campaign by the Alaska Republican Party, which urged voters to “file red,” effectively voting for Palin and Begich, in either order.
Wednesday’s results showed that most Begich supporters followed that instruction, but not enough to make Palin the winner.
The three candidates, plus Bye, shared a debate scene at the Alaska Oil and Gas Association’s annual meeting shortly before the results were announced.
“As an Alaskan who was born and raised here and intends to be here the rest of my life, the right people on this stage, I’m going to work with them for the rest of my life. So you’re not going to hear me say anything bad about the other leaders who are in this race,” Peltola said. “I have 10 years of experience in the Legislative Assembly. You can’t do 10 years of public service without constantly disagreeing with half the people. So I have experience. I have experience working across party lines with anyone and everyone. And I’d love to be your representative in Washington, DC”
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