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

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CNN

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.

The Alaska governor’s race could avoid the ranked choice table altogether. Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy, who is seeking a second term, currently has 50.3% of the vote — on track to narrowly exceed the 50% threshold needed to win outright. However, Wednesday is the deadline for counting overseas votes – so additional votes could still shift the race’s margins. Democrat Les Gara is currently in second place with 24.2% of the vote, while independent former governor Bill Walker is third with 20.7%.

In the House and Senate races, incumbents Peltola and Murkowski were heavily favored.

Peltola did not pass the 50% threshold, but currently has a clear lead with 48.7% of the vote. The next two seats are split between two high-profile Republicans: Palin, who is attempting a political comeback 13 years after she was the GOP vice presidential nominee, and Nick Begich III, a Republican member of Alaska’s most prominent Democratic political family.

Palin received 25.8% of the state’s first-place votes, while Begich received 23.4%. A fourth-place candidate, Libertarian Chris Bye, received 1.7% of the vote.

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, asking voters to “rank the reds” — listing the Republican candidates as their first and second choices. But she never took aim at Peltola in personal terms.

In the Senate race, Murkowski and Tshibaka have a similar share of first-place votes: Murkowski had 43.3% support, while Tshibaka had 42.7%.

However, the third place with 10.3% support was the Democrat Patricia Chesbro. It is widely expected that voters who favored Chesbro would place the more moderate Murkowski over the Trump-aligned Tshibaka. Fourth-place finisher Buzz Kelley, a Republican, received 2.9% of the first-place vote despite suspending his campaign in September and endorsing Tshibaka.

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