Democrat Mary Peltola Defeats Sarah Palin in Alaska’s Congressional Special Election

Mary Peltola, a former state representative, will be the first Alaska Native in Congress after she won a special election that included Republican candidates Nick Begich and former governor Sarah Palin.

Peltola will finish the remaining few months of the term of Representative Don Young, who died in March.

“I feel like I need to catch my breath for a minute,” Peltola said, speaking to supporters at an office in downtown Anchorage after the results were tallied.

Peltola, who surpassed Palin by three percentage points, will be the first Alaska Native person to serve in Congress. 

“I will have that distinction,” said Peltola. “But I think what’s most important is that I’m Alaskan and being sent to represent all Alaskans.”

Peltola, who represented Bethel in the state House for a decade, was ahead of former Gov. Sarah Palin by almost 9 percentage points when only first choice ballots were counted.

Republican candidate Nick Begich finished third and was eliminated on Wednesday as the ranked choice tabulation began. Just over half of his voters had marked Palin as their second choice, 29% of them selected Peltola and 21% either did not mark a second choice candidate or chose a write-in candidate.

Peltola won with 51.5% of the vote, to Palin’s 48.5%.

At her campaign headquarters in Anchorage on Wednesday, Palin said she felt “more fired up than ever.”

“We’ve only just begun to fight for Alaska I feel like,” she said. “This is just, you know, the call to arms, you guys.”

In a speech to supporters, Palin also questioned election integrity and again criticized the state’s new ranked choice voting system. She later told reporters she “does not anticipate” challenging the results of the election in court.

Palin and Peltola have been friends since their days in Juneau, when Palin was governor and Peltola was a legislator. Despite the loss, Palin had only good things to say about her opponent.

“She’s a beautiful soul. She’s a great mother, has a heart for Alaska,” said Palin. “We just represent very, very polarizing views.”

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