The special election for Alaska's only U.S. House of Representatives seat is over. The surprising conclusion is a historical one but should also serve as an ominous warning for Republicans.
Mary Peltola will become the first Alaska Native to represent the state in Washington, D.C., the 19th Newsletter reported. The Democrat won in part due to the new ranked-choice voting system in the state.
The special election was held to fill the seat left by the death of Republican Rep. Don Young, who died in March. Peltola will serve the last four months of the term but will be on the ballot again in November to vie for a full two-year term.
Peltola bested the popular former Gov. Sarah Palin for the seat despite having a lower-profile political career. The Democrat served in Alaska's state House of Representatives for ten years compared to Palin's national recognition as a former Alaska governor and vice presidential nominee.
Palin focused on national issues like the Justice Department's investigation into former President Donald Trump, who endorsed Palin. By contrast, Peltola campaigned on local issues like the $18 per gallon cost for milk, concerns of indigenous peoples, and the state's main industries.
"Peltola is somebody who sort of grew up eating, living, breathing politics because of being an Alaskan Native and being an Alaskan Native woman," professor of political science at the University of Alaska Fairbank Amy Lauren Lovecraft said. "She is also able to think beyond just serving Alaska as a state, but also think about the ways in which the federal government, who still owns the vast majority of Alaska land, operates in relation to our state."
However, the impact of the state's new election system can't be overlooked. In 2020, voters in Alaska approved a new procedure whereby the four candidates with the most votes go onto the general election through an elimination process based on ranked choices.
Democrats have been doing a terrible job running the country, but that doesn't mean Republicans are assured a win. The GOP should take note of what happened to Palin and strategize accordingly.