(WASHINGTON) — Democrat Mary Peltola is projected to win the Alaska special general election for the state’s sole House seat, ABC News reports.
Peltola defeated two Republicans — former Republican Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and Nick Begich — and will be the first Democrat to represent the state in the House in nearly half a century, succeeding Rep. Don Young, who died in March.
Peltola will also be the first Alaska Native to represent the state in Congress.
“What’s most important is that I’m an Alaskan being sent to represent all Alaskans. Yes, being Alaska Native is part of my ethnicity, but I’m much more than my ethnicity,” Peltola said following the announcements of the results according to the Anchorage Daily News.
The election, which was called on Wednesday some two weeks after voting ended, was historic for a more technical reason: It was the first Alaska race that used ranked-choice ballots.
The process — which advocates said would encourage more consensus-building but Palin criticized as “convoluted” — worked like this: If a candidate in the election had initially won more than 50% of first-choice votes, they would have won the race outright. That didn’t happen in the special race on Aug. 17. (Peltola ended up with about 40%.)
Then, the candidate with the least amount of first-place votes — Begich — was eliminated and that candidate’s voters instead had their ballots redistributed to their second choice until one candidate got at least 50%.
Peltola is an indigenous Yup-ik Alaskan and former member of the Alaska House of Representatives. As a state lawmaker, she chaired the bipartisan Bush Caucus of rural politicians. In addition, she served in the Kuskokwim River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission before leaving for her congressional campaign.
On the trail, she prioritized climate change, responsible resource development and infrastructure for airports, ferries, highways and energy grids.
Peltola will only serve the remainder of Young’s term, which ends in January. She is on the ballot again in November — along with Palin and Begich — to try and win a full two-year term.
In a statement Wednesday, Palin repeated her criticism of ranked-choice voting, saying it “was sold as the way to make elections better reflect the will of the people” but that it has the “opposite” effect.
She said that “though we’re disappointed in this outcome, Alaskans know I’m the last one who’ll ever retreat. Instead, I’m going to reload. With optimism that Alaskans learn from this voting system mistake and correct it in the next election, let’s work even harder to send an America First conservative to Washington in November.”
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