Mary Peltola seeks to thwart Sarah Palin as Alaska tabulates ranked election results

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Alaska Rep. Mary Peltolathe Democrat, who won a special election that sent her to Congress this summer, will again oppose former Gov. Sarah Palin‘s bid for a political comeback. CNN predicted Wednesday that Peltola will win the race Alaska’s Great House Seat according to the state ranked choice voting tabulationdefeating Palin and Republican Nick Begich III.

CNN also predicted that Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski will win re-election. She will defeat Republican Kelly Tshibaka and Democrat Patricia Chesbro. CNN had previously predicted that a Republican would hold the seat.

And Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy will win re-election, CNN predicted. He defeated Democrat Les Gara and independent Bill Walker. Dunleavy won more than 50% of the first-choice vote, so a ranked-choice election was not required.

In Alaska, voters in 2020 approved a switch to a ranked-choice election system. It is in place in 2022 for the first time.

Under the new system, Alaska holds open primaries and voters cast ballots for one candidate from any party, with the top four finishers advancing. In the general election, voters rank these four candidates, from their first choice to their fourth choice.

If no candidate tops 50% of first-choice votes, the state then tabulates ranked-choice results—dropping the last-place finisher and moving those votes to voters’ second choice. If after a round of tabulation there is still no winner, third place falls and the same voting process takes place.

Peltola first won the House seat when a similar scenario played out in the August special election to fill the remaining months of late Rep. Don Young, a Republican who died in March after representing Alaska in the House for 49 years.

Peltola pitched himself as a supporter of abortion rights and an advocate for salmon fishing, and emerged the victor in the August special election after receiving just 40% of the first-place vote. This time she has a larger share, while Palin and Begich’s support has shrunk.

The House race has shown the unusual alliances in Alaska politics. Although Peltola is a Democrat, she is also close to Palin — whose tenure as governor overlapped with Peltola’s time as a state legislator in Juneau. The two have praised each other warmly. Palin has criticized the ranked-choice system. But she never took aim at Peltola in personal terms.

The Republicans in the race, Palin and Begich, both urged voters to “rank the red” and list the two GOP challengers first and second.

But Peltola had quickly won many in the state after her special election victory – partly because she has deep relationships with a number of Republicans.

Peltola told CNN in an interview that she and Palin had bonded in Juneau over being new mothers, and that Palin’s family had given Peltola’s family her backyard trampoline when Palin resigned from the governor’s office.

At an Alaska Federation of Natives candidate forum in October, Palin effusively praised Peltola.

“Other than that, I never have anything to complain about. I just wish she would convert to the other party. But other than that, love her,” Palin said of Peltola.

Peltola’s family was also close to the late Young’s family. Peltola’s father and Young had taught school together decades ago and were hunting buddies, Peltola said in an interview.

In the race for Alaska’s Senate seat, Murkowski, a moderate Republican, was attacked by former President Donald Trump after she voted to convict him during his impeachment trial in the wake of the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol. Murkowski also broke with Trump on a number of key votes during his presidency.

Trump endorsed Tshibaka, and a cadre of former Trump campaign officials worked on her campaign. She was also endorsed by the Alaska Republican Party, which chose to back the more conservative candidate in a state Trump won by 10 percentage points in 2020.

But Murkowski had built a broad coalition in a state where political alliances are often more complicated than they appear. She and Peltola had publicly said they would place each other first in their choices.

Chesbro, the Democrat, was among the four candidates who had advanced to the general election. Republican Buzz Kelley also advanced but dropped out, urging his supporters to vote for Tshibaka.

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