Alaska Rep. Mary Peltola, the Democrat who won a special election that sent her to Congress this summer, will once again thwart former Gov. Sarah Palin’s attempt at a political comeback. CNN predicted Wednesday that Peltola will win the race for Alaska’s vacancy after the state’s nominated vote, defeating Palin and Republican Nick Begich III.
CNN also predicted that Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski will win re-election. She will defeat Republican Kelly Tshibaka and Democrat Patricia Chesbro. CNN previously predicted a Republican would hold the seat.
And Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy will win re-election, CNN predicted. He defeats Democrat Les Gara and independent Bill Walker. Dunleavy won more than 50% of the first election votes so no tabular ranking was required.
In Alaska, voters in 2020 approved a move to a ranked voting system. It will be used for the first time in 2022.
Under the new system, Alaska holds an open primary, and voters vote for any candidate from any party, and the top four finishers advance. In the general election, voters rank these four candidates from their first choice to their fourth choice.
If no candidate gets more than 50% of the first-election vote, the state tabulates the results of the ranking, dropping the bottom spot and deferring those votes to voters’ second choice. If after a round of tables there is still no winner, the third place finisher is dropped and the same vote shifting process takes place.
SE Cup: Palin followed fame but the Alaskans got knocked out (September 2022)
Peltola first won the House seat when a similar scenario played out in August’s special election to fill the remaining months of the term of late Representative Don Young, a Republican who died in March after serving Alaska for 49 years in the House had represented.
Peltola, who posed as an abortion advocate and salmon fisherman, emerged victorious in August’s special election after receiving just 40% of the first-place vote. This time she has a bigger stake while Palin and Begich’s support has dwindled.
The home race demonstrated the unusual alliances in Alaskan politics. Though Peltola is a Democrat, she is also close to Palin — whose tenure as governor overlapped with Peltola’s tenure as a Juneau state representative. The two have sincerely praised each other. Palin has criticized the ranked voting system. But she never personally targeted Peltola.
Republicans in the race, Palin and Begich, both urged voters to “rank the reds” and seed the two GOP contenders first and second.
But Peltola quickly won over many in the state after her special election victory — in part because she has deep ties with a number of Republicans.
Peltola told CNN in an interview that she and Palin bonded in Juneau because they were new moms, and that Palin’s family gave Peltola’s family their backyard trampoline when Palin stepped down from the governor’s office.
At an Alaska Federation of Natives candidate forum in October, Palin praised Peltola effusively.
“Damn it, I never have anything to complain about. I just wish she would switch to the other party. But other than that, love her,” Palin said of Peltola.
Peltola’s family was also close to the late Young’s family. Peltola’s father and Young taught school together decades ago and used to hunt, Peltola said in an interview.
In the race for Alaska’s Senate seat, Murkowski, a moderate Republican, came under the scrutiny of former President Donald Trump after she voted to sentence him during his impeachment trial following the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol. Murkowski also broke with Trump on some key polls during his presidency.
Trump backed Tshibaka, and a cadre of former Trump campaign officials worked on her campaign. She was also backed by the Alaska Republican Party, which chose to back the more conservative candidate in a state Trump won by 10 percentage points in 2020.
But Murkowski had built a broad coalition in a state where political alliances are often more complicated than they appear. She and Peltola had publicly stated that they would put each other first in their elections.
Chesbro, the Democrat, was among four candidates running in the general election. Republican Buzz Kelley also advanced but dropped out, urging his supporters to vote for Tshibaka.