JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — U.S. Rep. Mary Peltola was elected to the House of Representatives for a full term, months after the Alaskan Democrat won a special election for the seat following the death of longtime Republican Rep. Don Young earlier this year.
Peltola defeated Republicans Sarah Palin and Nick Begich and Libertarian Chris Bye in the November 8 election. The results of the ranking voting were announced on Wednesday. Palin and Begich were also candidates in the special election.
“It’s a two-year deal,” Peltola told the Anchorage Daily News after announcing her win — a 55% to 45% lead over Palin in the final round of the standings. “I’ll happily work for Alaskans again as long as they have me.”
Peltola, whose name is Yup’ik, became the first Alaskan Native woman to serve in Congress and the first woman to hold the seat in the Alaskan House of Representatives with her victory in August. The win also boosted their fundraising efforts, surpassing those of their rivals ahead of this month’s elections.
Messages were sent to Palin’s campaign on Wednesday.
Begich congratulated Peltola in a statement, adding, “Our nation faces a number of challenges in the years to come, and our representatives will need wisdom and judgment as they work to put America on a more solid path.” My message to Alaskans is to keep getting involved and getting involved.”
Peltola accepted Young’s legacy as she sought the two-year term and was supported by his daughters, one of whom presented her with a bolo tie from Young at an Alaska Federation of Natives conference where Peltola was treated like a rock star. Young held the seat for 49 years.
“Now I’m a true congressman for all of Alaska,” she said. Young often referred to himself that way. Peltola has described his legacy as one of bipartisanship and building support for Alaskan interests in Congress.
Peltola was a state legislator from the small rural community of Bethel for 10 years ending in 2009. She surprised many by finishing fourth in June’s special primary, which saw her emerge from a field of 48 candidates including current state and local officials. That finish was enough to send her to the special election.
During the election campaign, she came out as a coalition builder, emphasizing a desire for more civility in politics and trying to stay out of the sniper between Palin and Begich. Peltola, who most recently worked for a commission aiming to restore salmon in Alaska’s Kuskokwim River, raised concerns about ocean productivity and cited the need to conserve ailing fisheries.
She also emphasized her support for abortion rights.
During a speech in October, she spoke about the need for unity and bemoaned what she says has become ubiquitous messages in politics “about hate and fear and self-pity.” And yes, these resonate, these are convincing motivators. But they’re destructive, they’re corrosive, they’re tearing us down.”
She said her priorities for the new term are committee work and “working very hard to bring down our inflation rates and our shipping costs, bring down costs for working families and all Alaskan households.”
Associated Press writer Mark Thiessen of Anchorage, Alaska, contributed to this report.