According to unofficial results given by the Alaska Division of Elections, Democrat Mary Peltola has won the special election to replace Alaska’s House seat for the duration of 2022. This effectively ends former governor Sarah Palin’s attempt at a political comeback.
Both Palin and Peltola will be running in a separate election in November to serve the entire term, giving the Republican vice presidential nominee a second chance in the House contest.
Peltola emerged as the victor Wednesday when Alaska’s Division of Elections counted ranked-choice ballots in the state’s first usage of the system.
The former state legislator would become the first Alaska Native in Congress if she wins the race to fill the seat vacated by the late Republican Rep. Don Young.
The contest for Young’s seat has been watched nationally through the lens of the attempted political comeback of Palin, who, after the 2008 presidential election, resigned midway through her lone term in the governor’s office in 2009.
Palin, who has not ran for office since leaving the governor’s office, had been endorsed by former President Donald Trump. He called into tele-rallies for her campaign and appeared at an event in Alaska in July to boost Palin and other Republican candidates he has endorsed in this year’s races.
Palin blasted ranked-choice voting in a statement after the results were published on Wednesday, calling it a “new crazy, complex, confusing” system.
“Though we’re unhappy in this conclusion, Alaskans know I’m the last one who’ll ever retreat. Instead, I’m going to reload. In the hopes that Alaskans will fix this voting system oversight in the next election, let’s put in extra effort this year to ensure that an America First conservative is elected to the U.S. Senate and then the U.S. House of Representatives in “…she remarked.
With a primary election in June, where candidates from all parties ran on the same ballot, the original field of 48 candidates was narrowed down to a final four, including Santa Claus, a North Pole councilman, and a supporter of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.
The four candidates who made it to the runoff were Republican businessman Nick Begich III, a member of the state’s most prominent Democratic family, Republican Sarah Palin, and independent Al Gross. But immediately after the primary, Gross pulled out of the campaign, a move that consolidated Democratic support behind Peltola.
While campaigning, Peltola sought to capitalize on the Supreme Court’s decision to abolish federal protections for abortion rights by positioning herself as a pro-abortion rights, pro-labor union candidate with a strong background on topics like fishing that are essential to Alaska’s identity and economy.
Peltola served in the state assembly during Palin’s term as governor, and the two appeared to get along famously when campaigning. Peltola is also related to Young by the fact that her father taught at the same school where Young did before he was elected to Congress. In addition, Peltola once celebrated Thanksgiving with Young’s relatives in the Greater Washington, DC Area.
More than two weeks after Election Day, on a Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET, the Division of Elections in Alaska ran its ranked-choice computation. The majority of ballots in Alaska are cast by mail, and because of the territory’s vast terrain and lack of a centralized transportation network, the law provides an additional 10 days for ballots to be received and counted.
In 2020, voters in this state will decide whether or not to implement ranked-choice voting. Voters in open primaries, which allow candidates from any party to participate, cast a single ballot for their preferred candidate. Following this, voters rank these four candidates from first to fourth in the runoff election.
Gross’s unexpected withdrawal from the competition just after entering the top four threw a monkey wrench into the proceedings. After Gross dropped out of the race, Alaska only had to eliminate one candidate from the ranked-choice system, and that was Begich, who received 28% of the vote in the August 16 election, compared to 40% for Peltola and 31% for Palin.
In November, all three of them will have another chance to win that House seat. It was determined that Peltola, Palin, and Begich would advance to the general election for the next full term. Tara Sweeney, an Alaska Native and Republican who has the support of the state’s dominant Native corporations, came in at number four. However, Sweeney polled poorly in the primary, receiving only 4% of the vote versus Peltola’s 37%, Palin’s 30%, and Begich’s 26%.
Sweeney has announced her intention to withdraw from the contest because she “sees no road to victory, nor to raise the money needed to be successful come November.” The exact moment of her withdrawal from the campaign and whether or not she would be replaced on the ballot by Alaska elections officials remain open questions.