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Democrat Mary Peltola wins special House election in Alaska, defeating Sarah Palin

Mary Peltola wins Alaska special election
Local Matters: Mary Peltola wins Alaska special election 06:45

Democrat Mary Peltola has won the special U.S House election in Alaska and becomes the state's first Alaska Native member of Congress. She will fill the seat left open by longtime Congressman Don Young, who died in March

Peltola, a five-term state legislator, beat former Alaska governor and 2008 GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin and Republican businessman Nick Begich. She was declared the winner of the special election late Wednesday night, after a process of elimination in Alaska's new ranked-choice voting system catapulted her above the 50% threshold needed to secure a victory. 

The ranked-choice voting system that Alaska is using for the first time enables voters to choose multiple candidates on the ballot in order of preference. If a candidate doesn't receive over 50% in the initial tally, the last place finisher is eliminated and their support is redistributed to their voters' second choice candidate. 

An initial tally of the August 16 special election had Peltola leading the field with nearly 40% of the vote. Palin was in second with 30.9% while Republican businessman Nick Begich came in third with 26.2%.

Election 2022 Alaska
Democrat Mary Peltola smiles at supporters after delivering remarks at a fundraiser on Aug. 12, 2022, in Juneau, Alaska.  Becky Bohrer / AP

On Wednesday, the Alaska Division of Elections tabulated the final results during a public livestream, which showed Peltoa coming out on top with 51.47% after Begich's votes were redistributed to his voters' second choice candidate. 

According to election officials in Alaska, 15,445 of Begich's voters listed Peltola as their second choice while 27,042 put down Palin as their second option. The final tally showed Peltola with 91,206 votes to Palin's 85,987 votes. 

All three candidates will be on the ballot again in November to decide who will serve a full two-year term in Congress.

This is Palin's first campaign since she stepped down as Alaska's governor in 2009. She's endorsed by former President Donald Trump, who held a rally in Alaska in July and criticized rank-choice voting. Palin has also bashed ranked-choice voting, saying it is a "cockamamie system" that "makes it impossible" for voters to trust if their vote will be "counted the way you intended."

Peltola will serve the next four months in Congress but she'll need to defend her new seat in November. Begich, a businessman who also served as co-chair of Young's 2020 reelection campaign, has been attacking Palin during the campaign. 

Begich ran ads that show images of Palin from her appearance on the "Masked Singer" and accused her of leaving Alaska "to be a celebrity." In a tele-rally with Trump in August, on the day of the Mar-A-Lago raid, Palin called out "swamp creatures" in D.C. and referred to Begich as a "RINO" — a 'Republican in name only.' 

"I've never lived anywhere else. It cracks me up that one opponent especially tries to plant that seed that I'm not even a real Alaskan," she added. 

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