Democrat Mary Peltola won Alaska’s at-large congressional seat race, NBC News projected Wednesday, defeating former governor and Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin.
While the election was held earlier this month, the race was not called for weeks. due to Alaska’s new ranked-choice voting system in which voters rank candidates in order of preference.
After the first round of voting, Peltola led Palin by more than 20 percentage points, with Republican Nick Begich, scion of one of Alaska’s best-known political families, coming in third. But because Peltola failed to win more than 50 percent, the vote went to a second round with Begich eliminated and his votes redistributed to the second choice of those voters.
The three-way race was a rematch of a special election held earlier this year. Peltola made history in August, becoming the first Alaska Native to sit in Congress after winning the special election to replace Republican Rep. Don Young, who died in March at the age of 88.
Peltola’s victory is a blow to GOP leader Kevin McCarthy and Republicans, who won a slim majority in this month’s midterm elections. It means a Democrat will hold the at-large House seat for the next two years, after Young and the GOP have controlled it for nearly five decades.
Young took office in 1973 after Democratic Rep. Nick Begich, grandfather of this year’s nominee of the same name, was alleged to have been assassinated in a plane crash.
Even before the race was called, Palin, the late Sen. John McCain’s running mate in the 2008 presidential election, announced that she was the first person to sign a new ballot initiative to repeal Alaska’s ranked-choice voting system.
In the Senate race, incumbent Republican Lisa Murkowski was re-elected Wednesday after rounds of ranked-choice runoffs, fending off a Republican challenger backed by former President Donald Trump.