Representative Mary Peltola, Democrat of Alaska and the first Alaska Native woman to serve in Congress, on Wednesday won a full term in the House, according to The Associated Press, holding back three conservative challengers.
Ms. Peltola first won the seat in an August special election to finish the term of Representative Don Young, a Republican who died in March. Her victory, which flipped the seat for Democrats for the first time in 50 years, was considered an upset against Sarah Palin, the former governor and vice-presidential candidate.
With her latest success, Ms. Peltola has secured a full two-year term as the lone representative for the state of Alaska. The loss for Republicans in the state ensures that they will hold 220 seats in the House — a razor-thin margin with just two races yet to be called — when leaders had hoped to pad that majority with as many additional seats as possible.
“WE DID IT,” Ms. Peltola exulted on social media, posting a video of a dancing crab.
With 136,893 votes after two rounds of tabulation, Ms. Peltola secured 54.9 percent of the vote, The Alaska Division of Elections said. Ms. Peltola defeated two of her Republican rivals from the special election — Ms. Palin and Nick Begich III, who is part of a prominent liberal political family in Alaska — as well as Chris Bye, a libertarian.
Ms. Palin received 45.1 percent support, with a total of 112,255 votes. Mr. Begich received a total of 64,392 votes before being eliminated in the second round, while Mr. Bye was eliminated in the first round with 4,986 votes.
State law allows absentee ballots to be counted up to 15 days after Election Day if postmarked by then and sent from outside the United States. Election officials decided to wait to tabulate rounds of ranked-choice voting until all ballots were counted.
Because none of the candidates appeared to have secured more than 50 percent of the votes by Nov. 23 — 15 days after Election Day — Alaskan election officials tabulated the next round of votes once all ballots were counted.
With the establishment of an open primary system ahead of Mr. Young’s death in which the top four candidates could advance regardless of party, four dozen candidates jumped into the race to replace him. Ms. Peltola was able to secure a spot in the general election, along with Ms. Palin and Mr. Begich.
While Ms. Palin and Mr. Begich split the conservative vote, Ms. Peltola assembled a coalition of Democrats, centrists and Alaska Natives behind her “pro-family, pro-fish” platform. A Democrat had not held the seat in half a century, since Mr. Young had replaced Mr. Begich’s grandfather, a Democrat.
“Our nation faces a number of challenges in the coming years, and our representatives will need wisdom and discernment as they work to put America on a more sound path,” Mr. Begich said in a statement congratulating Ms. Peltola on her victory. While the majority of his supporters voted for Ms. Palin, 7,460 of them ranked Ms. Peltola and helped push her over the majority threshold.
Ms. Peltola worked to highlight her bipartisan credentials, often speaking openly about her friendship with Ms. Palin on the campaign trail. With just a couple of seats determining which party controls the House, she could potentially play a critical role should Republicans seek to win over Democratic votes for must-pass legislation and any effort to approve bipartisan measures.
While Ms. Peltola took office only in September, shortly before the midterm elections, she quickly took over pushing for legislation Mr. Young had introduced and hired multiple Republican aides on his staff.
Ms. Peltola has also allied herself with her state’s two Republican senators, Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, to pressure the Biden administration to reconsider a key drilling project in Alaska and ensure more federal support was granted to the state after the remnants of a typhoon damaged some communities.
She received an emotional and warm reception at the Alaska Federation of Natives convention last month, where attendees waved cutouts of her face and endorsed her candidacy. Mr. Young’s family also endorsed her and filmed an ad for her, bestowing her with one of his signature bolo ties.
Source: The New York Times