I’m currently visiting family in Anchorage, Alaska. And let me tell you, I could hear the cheers Wednesday as it was announced that former Republican Gov. Sarah Palin was trounced by her Democratic rival, Mary Peltola, in the runoff election for the state’s lone House seat. Not only is Peltola the first Democrat elected to serve in the role in 50 years, but she’s also the first woman and the first Alaska Native to represent any state in the House of Representatives.
Peltola, 49, replaces the late GOP Rep. Don Young—the longest-serving Republican in Congress in U.S. history. She will only be in the role until January, though, and then must face Palin, along with GOP businessman Nick Begich and Libertarian Chris Bye, in November to fill the seat for the full term.
Peltola’s political career was launched at just 22 years old when she took a job interning with the Alaska Legislature. She ran for office the same year but lost. Two years later, she became a state representative for Alaska's Bethel region, serving from 1999 to 2009.
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She was “born in Alaska and raised on the Kuskokwim River in Kwethluk, Tuntutuliak, Platinum, and Bethel,” her campaign website reads. Her mother is Yup’ik, and her father is a Nebraskan who moved north to teach school and eventually became a bush pilot, according to CNN.
In an interview, Peltola explained that the Yup’ik people are “holistic” in their beliefs. “Everything is interconnected. … When we talk about community wellness, we talk about the entire community. I do think of things in very broad terms, and I do recognize that in Alaska, even though we have a huge footprint, we are a very small in numbers population, and we are all related.”
Her stance on abortion is clear. In an interview with KTOO, when asked about the topic, she answered, “Everyone deserves quality health care. That includes access to safe, legal abortions, with no exceptions. A repeal of abortion access would disproportionately impact people of color and low-income women who already experience unfair barriers to health care. I will fight to codify Roe v. Wade and guarantee the right to individual choice.”
Despite their political differences, Palin and Peltola have been colleagues for years. The two met in Juneau when Palin was governor and Peltola was a legislator, Alaska Public Radio reports.
After her loss Wednesday, Palin offered that Peltola was “a beautiful soul,” and added, “She’s a great mother, has a heart for Alaska. … We just represent very, very polarizing views.”
Of course, that didn’t stop Palin from being her usual chaotic self and bashing ranked-choice voting after her loss, calling it a “new, crazy, convoluted, confusing” system.
“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,” Palin said.
In July, former President Donald Trump came to Anchorage to stump for Palin, calling her “legendary,” The New York Times reports. Palin spent her time at the rally attacking Republican rival Begich, referring to him as a “RINO” and desperately trying to brush off accusations that she abandoned the state after her 2008 loss.
“We have been mocked and ridiculed and falsely accused and told to sit down and shut up. … The stuff that you’ve heard about me—it’s a lie. I’m way worse than what you’ve heard,” Palin said.
Peltola’s father and the late Young were also friends and hunting buddies, Peltola told CNN, adding that in the 1960s, her father and Young bought a bulldozer together and took turns fighting a wildfire in 12-hour shifts.
Alaska Public Radio reports that Peltola’s win will be certified Friday, and she will probably be sworn in the week of Sept. 12.
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