NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's uplifting perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Wednesday, August 31st, 2022

Democratic hopeful and Alaska Native Mary Peltola wins special election for U.S. House

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.

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