Rep. Mary Peltola, the Democrat who in September was sworn in as the first Alaska Native to serve in Congress, has won a full-time term to that seat, NBC News projects. Peltola prevailed in a three-way race against two Republicans, former Alaska governor and vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin and businessman Nick Begich. Her victory comes a little over two months after Peltola won a special election to fill out the term of Rep. Don Young, the Republican who had held the state’s sole congressional seat for 50 years when he died in March.
Peltola, a 10-year veteran of Alaska’s state legislature who was until recently executive director of the Kuskokwim River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, had developed a reputation over her career for “resolute niceness,” as one news report put it. A September AARP poll found that 49% of likely voters had a favorable view of her, 39% had a favorable view of Palin and 38% had a favorable view of Begich.
Even so, Peltola’s win as a Democrat in a red state will likely reignite conservative anger at Alaska’s new ranked-choice voting system, which disadvantages candidates such as Palin who have high unfavorability ratings. But Peltola’s come-from-behind win in the special election caused Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., to call Alaska’s new system “a scam to rig elections.”
Peltola did not come by her likability by avoiding taking a stance. She was the only one of the three candidates to vocally support abortion rights. She told The Guardian in September: “Alaska Natives have a history of forced sterilization against their knowledge or consent. People should have to build their families the way, when and how they choose. And for that to be infringed on is very troubling.”