Peltola’s victory is a significant pickup for Democrats, flipping the formerly red seat for the remainder of the current Congress, in which House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) holds a narrow Democratic majority.
In a statement, Peltola, who is Yup’ik Eskimo, touted her history-making win as the first Alaska Native to represent the state.
“I’m honored and humbled by the support I have received from across Alaska,” Peltola, 49, said. “I look forward to continuing Don Young’s legacy of bipartisanship, serving all Alaskans and building support for Alaska’s interests in DC.”
The race, something of a test case for Alaska’s new ranked-choice voting system, included the Frontier State’s ex-Gov. Sarah Palin, who was backed by former President Donald Trump, as well as Republican businessman Nick Begich III. Independent candidate Al Gross, who also emerged from the primary, said shortly thereafter that he would withdraw from the special election.
Peltola will complete the remainder of Young’s term and will have to run in yet another general election for a term starting in January. Peltola, Palin, and Begich all qualified for the November ballot for the new term.
“Don Young worked in a very bipartisan way,” she said. “He had more seniority than any other member of the House has ever had, and he welcomed every single congressman into their position, personally. So, he had a very long history of bipartisanship, and I want to emulate that, and I want to emulate his hard work on constituent issues.”
Gross’s departure gave a boost to Peltola, allowing Democrats to flip the state’s only House seat to their control, at least for the remainder of Young’s term. But it also may be seen as a sign that Democrats’ political fortunes are improving shortly before November’s midterm elections, in which they are seeking to maintain their congressional majorities.
The general election was the first under the state’s new ranked-choice voting system, in which voters rank candidates according to their order of preference rather than choosing just one candidate. The last-place candidates are then eliminated, with their voters’ subsequent choices then going to their next choice’s tally. The process goes on for as many rounds as it takes until one candidate reaches a 50%-plus-one-vote threshold and is declared the winner.
As the third-place finisher, Begich’s votes were redistributed to his voter’s second choices, pushing Peltola over the finish line.
The results of the special election were delayed because Alaska permits some absentee ballots to come in as late as Aug. 31 if they were postmarked by the general election date, Aug. 16.