Mary Peltola defeats Sarah Palin in special election to become first Alaska Native elected to Congress, NBC News programs

Democrat Mary Peltola, a former state representative, will be the first Alaska Native in Congress after winning a special election that included GOP candidates Nick Begich and former Gov. Sarah Palin, NBC News projects.

Peltola, who is the executive director of the Kuskokwim River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, served 10 years in the state legislature and campaigned as “Alaska’s best effort to stop an extremist from winning.”

“It’s a GOOD DAY,” Peltola he tweeted after the election results. “We won tonight, but we’ll have to keep that position in November.”

House Speaker Nance Pelosi, D-Calif., praised Peltola for “making history as the first Alaska Native ever elected to Congress.”

“Her valuable and unifying perspective, deep experience in public service, and commitment to working families will strengthen the work of our Caucus and Congress,” Pelosi said in a statement.

Peltola finished fourth in a crowded nonpartisan primary in June, when 48 candidates battled to secure one of four spots on the Aug. 16 special election ballot. But going into Wednesday’s final table, Peltola led the pack.

The special election was the state’s first test of ranked-choice voting, which was implemented after a 2020 ballot measure. The same system will be used in November.

With 93 percent of the vote counted in Wednesday night’s ranking results, Peltola had 51.5 percent of the vote to Palin’s 48.5 percent.

Voters voted more than two weeks ago to determine who will serve the final four months of Young’s term after he died in March at age 88.

No candidate won more than 50% of the vote in the Aug. 16 election, which prompted runoffs under the new system, in which voters ranked candidates in order of preference.

Based on the ranking system, the last ranked candidate is eliminated and votes are redistributed to the remaining candidates according to voter preferences. Rounds continue until one of the two remaining candidates with the most votes wins.

The elimination process didn’t begin until Wednesday, the last day election officials could receive absentee ballots.

Palin, the Republican Party’s 2008 vice presidential nominee, will have another chance to revive her political comeback. He will compete against Peltola and Begić again in November to determine who will serve a full two-year term in the House. The three candidates received the most votes in the primary. the fourth candidate who qualified, independent Al Gross, later dropped out of the race.

After her loss, Palin called ranked-choice voting a “mistake” for Alaska.

“Rank-ranked voting was sold as the way to make elections better reflect the will of the people. As Alaska — and America — is now seeing, the exact opposite is true,” she said in a statement. “While we are disappointed with this outcome, Alaskans know that I am the last one to ever back down. I’ll reload.”

Begic congratulated Peltola on Wednesday and went after Palin, saying she “can’t win a race at the national level because her unfavorable rating is so high.”

“The biggest lesson as we head into the 2022 General Election is that ranked-choice voting has shown that a vote for Sarah Palin is actually a vote for Mary Peltola. Palin just doesn’t have enough support from Alaskans to win an election.” Begich said in a statement. “As we look forward to the November election, I will work hard to win the vote of Alaskans statewide.”

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