The first Alaska Native elected to Congress: Who is the woman who defeated Sarah Palin, Mary Peltola?
Mary Peltola, a Democrat who will be the first Alaska Native in Congress, beat Sarah Palin for a seat in the House. Who is she and why did she win?
Sarah Palin’s political comeback was halted on Wednesday when she lost Alaska’s U.S. House seat to Democrat Mary Peltola. Peltola has made history as the first woman and first Alaska Native to hold the seat.
Who is Mary Peltola, the new U.S. representative?
Peltola is Yup’ik and a lifelong Alaskan. According to her campaign site, Peltola worked as an intern for the Alaska Legislature at age 22 and ran for office in the Alaska House the same year and lost. Two years later she won the same election and represented the Bethel region in the state House. Peltola served in the state legislature from 1999 to 2009.
After serving in Alaska Legislature, Peltola worked as a manager of Community Development and Sustainability for the Dolin Gold Mine Project and then as the executive director of the Kuskokwim River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission.
According to The Guardian, Peltola will serve the remaining months of the term of the late Don Young, who died in March.
What led to Mary Peltola winning the special election in Alaska?
Even after an endorsement from former President Donald Trump, running with the late Sen. John McCain in the 2008 presidential election, and serving as Alaska’s governor, Palin was not able to overcome Peltola. According to NPR, Peltola defeated Palin by 3 percentage points, 51.5% to 48.5%.
According to The New York Times, Democratic and Republican pollsters say Peltola’s lead, in previous polls as well as the primaries, was due to several factors. These include her focus on forging a coalition across class, party and ethnic lines, skepticism among voters about Palin’s comeback and bickering between Palin and Begich during the campaign.
The New York Times also reported that some voters felt that Palin abandoned Alaska when she resigned as governor in 2009, partway through her term. A tweet from @PalmerReport stated that while some skeptics might say Peltola won due to Palin’s recent unpopularity and ranked choice voting, her victory could also indicate a larger trend for Democrats.
Skeptics will say the Democrat only won Alaska's House special election due to Sarah Palin's unpopularity and ranked choice fuzzy math. But this comes one week after the Democrats won a NY-19 House special election that they were also supposed to lose. Looks like a trend to me.— Palmer Report (@PalmerReport) September 1, 2022
Peltola’s kind reputation has also aided her win. Maeve Watikins, a 52-year-old Alaskan and nurse told the Times in an interview, “She is such a good listener. She’s all about kindness and hearing from everyone, but, at the same time she has a backbone.”