Juneau, Alaska — U.S. Rep. Mary Peltola was elected to a full term in the House, months after the Alaska Democrat won a special election for the seat following the death earlier this year of longtime Republican Don Young.
Peltola defeated Republicans Sarah Palin and Nick Begich, as well as Libertarian Chris Bye in the Nov. 8 election. The results of the ranked choice were announced on Wednesday. Palin and Begich were also candidates in the special election.
“It’s a two-year contract,” Peltola told the Anchorage Daily News after her victory, a 55-45 margin over Palin in the final round of voting, was announced. “I’d be happy to work for Alaskans again as long as they’ll have me.”
Peltola, who is Yup’ik, became the first Alaska Native to serve in Congress and the first woman to hold a seat in the Alaska House of Representatives with her victory in August. The victory also boosted her fundraising, outpacing those of her rivals in the run-up to this month’s election.
Messages were sent to the Palin campaign on Wednesday.
Begich congratulated Peltola in a statement, adding, “Our nation faces a number of challenges in the coming years, and our representatives will need wisdom and insight as they work to put America on a healthier path.” My message to Alaskans is to stay involved and engaged.”
Peltola embraced Young’s legacy when she sought the two-year term and was supported by his daughters, one of whom presented her with a Young bolo tie at an Alaska Federation of Natives conference, where Peltola was treated like a rock star. Young held the seat for 49 years.
“I’m now a real congressman for all of Alaska,” she said. Young often refers to himself as such. Peltola described his legacy as bipartisanship and building support for Alaska’s interests in Congress.
Peltola served as a state legislator from the small, rural central community of Bethel for 10 years, ending in 2009. She surprised many with her fourth-place finish in a special June primary, beating a field of 48 candidates that included state incumbents and local incumbents. That finish was enough to send her to the special election.
On the campaign trail, she cast herself as a coalition builder, emphasized her desire for more civility in politics and sought to stay out of the sniping between Palin and Begich. Peltola, who recently worked for a commission aimed at restoring salmon in Alaska’s Kuskokwim River, expressed concern about the ocean’s productivity and pointed to the need to preserve struggling fisheries.
She also emphasized her support for abortion rights.
During a speech in October, she spoke of the need for unity and bemoaned what she said had become pervasive messages in politics “of hate, fear and self-pity. And yes, they resonate, these are compelling motivators. But they are destructive, they are acidic, they tear us down.”
She said her priorities for the new term include committee assignments and “working very hard to lower inflation rates, our cost of delivery, lower costs for working families and all households in Alaska.”