The greater Pacific Northwest’s congressional delegation appears to have just gotten more diverse and more Democratic!
Today, the Alaska Division of Elections released the final tabulations in the state’s special election for the United States House of Representatives, and it turns out that Democratic hopeful Mary Peltola has prevailed over several Republican rivals — including Sarah Palin! — to finish out the unexpired term begun by the late Congressman Don Young, who passed away several months ago.
Peltola, forty-nine, is the first Alaska Native to be elected to Congress.
The results do still have to be certified, but things look solid for Peltola. She appears destined to become the first federal official in Alaska to be elected under the state’s new ranked choice voting system, which allows voters to rank candidates in the order they prefer rather than voting for just one candidate.
Here’s how the ranking exercise played out:
- In Round One, Republican Nick Begich got 28.52% of the vote, Republican Sarah Palin got 31.28% of the vote, and Peltola got 40.20% of the vote. Begich was eliminated because he received the fewest votes.
- In Round Two, Palin received 48.53% of the vote, while Peltola remained in first place with 51.47% of the vote. Peltola is the victor and Palin is the loser. Peltola was able to win because some of Begich’s voters preferred her as their next choice over Palin, a militant extremist.
Specifically, 27,042 Begich supporters’ votes were transferred to Palin, while 15,445 Begich supporters’ votes were transferred to Peltola.
That left Peltola with 91,206 votes at the end of Round Two, while Palin had 85,987 votes. There were 3,401 blanks, 11,222 exhausted ballots, and 342 overvotes, for a non-transferable total of 14,965.
It is a rare event to be able to report that a Democratic candidate has won a statewide election in The Last Frontier. The last time a Democrat won federal office in Alaska was in 2008, when Mark Begich (another member of the Begich family) defeated Ted Stevens for a six year term in the United States Senate.
And, as mentioned, this is the very first time an Alaska Native has won an election for federal office in the nation’s forty-nine state. It’s a truly historic night.
“It is a good day,” Peltola’s campaign declared after the results were announced.
“We’ve won tonight, but we’re still going to have to hold this seat in November. Donate today to help us make it happen.”
In an earlier tweet, she told backers: “When Alaskans work together, we win. That’s why I know the broad coalition we’re building has the real chance of building the momentum we need to win in November. For the sake of our natural resources, our workers, and our right to choose, we have to.”
“From the onset of her campaign, Mary unabashedly articulated her positions on the issues most important to Alaskans. We can’t stress enough how deeply her message resonated with voters in light of tonight’s election outcome,” said Alaska Democratic Party Executive Director Lindsay Kavanaugh.
“Tonight represents a victory for democracy and Alaskans. We stand behind Congresswoman-Elect Peltola as she prepares to head to Washington, D.C. and begin her work fighting for a better Alaska.”
“Mary has run a tremendous campaign and in the process, won over the hearts and minds of Alaskans. She has refused to shy away from her democratic values and has been nothing less than her authentic self,” said ADP Party Chair Michael Wenstrup. “Alaskans have made clear they want a rational, steadfast, honest, and caring voice speaking for them in Washington, D.C., not opportunists and extremists associated with the Alaska Republican Party.”
As you might expect, Palin isn’t taking the loss well.
She’s already blaming RCV for her defeat.
“Ranked-choice voting was sold as the way to make elections better reflect the will of the people. As Alaska — and America — now sees, the exact opposite is true,” Palin groused. “Though we’re disappointed in this outcome, Alaskans know I’m the last one who’ll ever retreat. Instead, I’m going to reload.”
Begich, meanwhile, declared that the outcome shows Palin is a weak candidate.
“The biggest lesson as we move into the 2022 General Election, is that ranked choice voting showed that a vote for Sarah Palin is in reality a vote for Mary Peltola. Palin simply doesn’t have enough support from Alaskans to win an election,” said Begich. “As we look forward to the November election, I will work hard to earn the vote of Alaskans all across the state.”
Begich’s comments refer to the upcoming vote for this same office for a full two-year term. What Peltola has just won is an unexpired term lasting a few weeks. She’ll only be in office until January unless she can convince Alaskans to retain her in the quickly approaching general election to decide the composition of the next Congress, which will be seated right after the new year.
The next time we publish a House roll call vote here on The Cascadia Advocate, we’ll be able to include the vote cast by Mary Peltola. How about that!
This truly is a historic night for Alaska, the Pacific Northwest, and the country.