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Who is Mary Peltola who beat Sarah Palin in the Alaska special election?

The voters of Alaska have spoken, ditching their former governor and instead sending the first Native American woman to represent the state in Congress.

Democrat flips Alaska’s congressional seat

The Alaska Division of Elections on Wednesday released the results of the 16 August special election to replace Republican Representative Don Young, who died this year. In the state’s first election using ranked-choice voting, Mary Peltola, a Democratic former state lawmaker, beat out Sarah Palin, former Republican governor of Alaska and failed 2008 vice-presidential candidate.

Peltola will be the first Native American and the first woman ever to represent Alaska in the House of Representatives, filling the state’s sole US House seat. She will finish the remainding four months of Young’s term, who had been the longest serving Republican representative, going to Congress in 1973 after winning a special election himself.

The newly elected congresswoman will face re-election 8 November in a rematch of the special election race, competing against Palin and Republican Nick Begich III, who receive the fewest votes of the three, once again to serve in Congress for the full two-year term.

Who is Mary Peltola?

Mary Peltola, 49, is of Yup’ik descendent on her mother’s side. She is the daughter of pilot and businessman Ward Sattler, who had unrealized political ambitions of his own. He was a longtime friend of the late Rep. Young. She would tag along with her father as he campaigned for the former congressman when she was a child.

She entered politics herself, and in 1999 started a ten-year stent as a Democratic legislator in the Alaska House of Representatives. She has a reputation for working across the aisle, building the “Bush Caucus”, a bipartisan group of lawmakers representing rural parts of the state. She and Palin became friends when serving together at the Statehouse.

She ran an upbeat campaign speaking about progressive issues like support for abortion rights by enshrining them in law and putting in place some gun control measures such as universal background checks. When it comes to developing the state’s vast resources, Peltola sees balancing it with preserving the environment and ensuring access to local communities.

She warns about the devastating consequences of climate change that are affecting communities in Alaska. Also central to her campaign was the fishing industry, of vital interest to many in Alaska. She has a deep understanding of this area working as a herring and salmon technician for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game during the summers while attending university and later as executive director of the Kuskokwim River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission.


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