Alaska special election: Democrat Peltola beats Palin

In Alaska’s first election with ranked-choice voting, Democratic candidate Mary Peltola shocked the political establishment by defeating Republican candidate Sarah Palin for the state’s open House seat.

Former state legislator and soon-to-be Alaska’s first indigenous member of Congress Peltola won a special election against a field that included Palin and another Republican, Nick Begich III. The Democrat came out on top in the first round of voting and eventually defeated Palin, who had the support of former President Trump and had previously won a statewide campaign in 2006.

In 2010, one year after being named as John McCain’s running mate for president, Palin made her first bid for public office since quitting as Alaska’s governor.

Despite the fact that Palin’s chances of making a quick return to politics are now nil, she is still running in Alaska’s regularly scheduled congressional election this autumn, with the victor receiving a full two-year term.

Despite the exceptional circumstances presented by Alaska’s ranked-choice system and Palin’s outsized personality, Peltola’s triumph is the latest in a series of overperformances for Democrats in special congressional elections since the Supreme Court’s verdict overturning Roe v. Wade. When running for office, Peltola stressed the need of safeguarding abortion rights, as well as the environment and focusing on regional concerns such as the salmon shortage in Western Alaska.

Palin outspent the Democrat four to one.

In 2020, Trump easily carried Alaska, beating out Democrat Joe Biden, who received only 43% of the vote.

Peltola is a member of the indigenous Yup’ik culture and has worked as the head of the Kuskokwim River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, an organization that has helped bring together more than a hundred Western Alaskan communities.

There were more than 45 hopefuls in this year’s special election for Alaska’s single congressional district, which narrowed down to four finalists by mid-August. Not only did Alaska provide Palin, but also a prominent political figure in the form of Begich.

The Republican is the nephew of former Democratic Senator Mark Begich and state Senate Minority Leader Tom Begich, and the grandson of former Democratic Representative Nick Begich, who served Alaska in the House before his plane disappeared in 1972 while campaigning with Representative Hale Boggs of Louisiana.

Mail-in ballots from all around the enormous state of Alaska have been trickling in since the election to replace the late Republican Representative Don Young took place a couple of weeks ago. Then, the ranked-choice voting method kicks in: If no candidate receives a majority of first-place votes in Alaska’s new electoral system, ballots are retabulated so that voters’ support for the lowest vote-getter goes to their next option. By 2020, the electoral process has been legislated.

Even while Palin hasn’t held public office in years, she hasn’t ruled out doing so in the future. In the middle of the 2010s, Palin was a political pundit for Fox News; in 2011, she purchased a property in Arizona, which she later sold. In addition, she sued The New York Times for defamation in a high-profile case that ended in defeat earlier this year.

It’s noteworthy that Peltola will be joining such a significant number of Native Americans serving in the current Congress. Reps. Tom Cole (R-Oklahoma), Sharice Davids (D-Kan.), Yvette Herrell (R-New Mexico), Kai Kahele (D-Hawaii), and Markwayne Mullin (R-Ga.) are also on board (R-Okla.)