Mary Peltola made history Wednesday when she was announced the winner of Alaska’s special election for Congress. Peltola, becomes the first Democrat elected to the seat in 50 years. She also becomes the first woman elected to the seat and the first Alaska Native to ever serve in Congress.
Peltola’s win in the Republican-leaning state of Alaska is in part possible because of the state’s new ranked-choice voting system. She will complete the remaining portion of Don Young’s term. The longtime Congressman lost his life in a plane crash in March.
New ranked-choice voting system changes the game in Alaska
Voters in Alaska went to the polls on August 16th to rank their candidates in order of preference. Election officials counted votes in several rounds. After each round the candidate with the fewest votes was eliminated and their voters reallocated based on that voter’s next choice.
During the first round of voting, Peltola received 39.6% of the vote to Palin’s 30.9% of the vote. The third candidate in the race, Republican Nick Begich, received just 27.8% of the vote. Roughly half of Begich voters placed fellow Republican Sarah Palin as their second choice, with the other half selecting Peltola. Peltola bested Palin by nearly 6,000 votes.
Mary Peltola will have to fight to hold the seat in November election
The stunning upset in the special election increases the Democratic majority in the House by one, and sets up a showdown for November. Peltola’s win will have her assume the seat immediately and serve through early January. All three candidates will be on the ballot again on November 8th, with the winner serving a full two year term.
Peltola served ten years in Alaska’s legislature and is currently the executive of the Kuskokwim River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission. She’s running as unapologetically “pro-jobs, pro-choice, pro-family and pro-fish”.