“She’s progressive, especially socially,” Lindsey Kavanaugh, executive director of the Alaska Democratic Party, said of Peltol. “She’s an Alaskan Democrat” and “she’s probably, compared to a bottom 48 Democrat, she’s a little more moderate.”
Peltola defeats Palin in Alaska House of Representatives special election
On Wednesday, Peltola was devastated by winning a snap election for Alaska’s only US House seat, defeating Palin and Nick Begich III (right), a business executive and a familiar name in public policy. When she is sworn in, Peltola will go down in history as the state’s first woman in the House of Representatives, the first Alaska Native – she’s a Yupik – and the first Democrat to hold that seat in half a century.
The victory came on her 49th birthday, which she called “GOOD DAY” in a tweet just after the state’s election department released the preliminary results of their new ranking voting system.
Peltola will serve the remaining four months of his term as Rep. Don Young (R), the longest-serving Republican in Congress who died in March at age 88. She is also a candidate in the November elections for a full two-year term. deadline for Yang’s replacement.
Peltola was born in 1973 – the year Young was first elected to the House of Representatives – and grew up in a rural area of the state. Her father and Young were close, and the New York Times reported that she would accompany her when her father campaigned for Young.
She received her early education at the University of Northern Colorado and spent summers working as a herring and salmon specialist for the Alaska Department of Fish and Wildlife.
In 1996, Peltola interned in the state legislature and later that year ran for a seat to represent the Bethel region, a major center in the western part of the state. “I felt like I had failed just by losing 56 votes,” she later said during an appearance on the local Coffee and Quaq podcast. “It’s really good that I didn’t win that time.”
After the defeat, Peltola worked as a reporter, sharpening her sense that parts of Alaska were underrepresented. “We rural people often have to interpret our news through the lens of the city, through urban journalists,” she said in the podcast.
In 1998, Peltola ran again for the state legislature and won. She spent 10 years in the legislature, the last few years during the period when Palin was in the governor’s mansion.
In the legislature, Peltola helped create the Bush Caucus, a bipartisan group of lawmakers representing the state’s rural areas. She has developed a reputation for working across the aisle, focusing on natural resource issues, and defeating adversaries with perseverance and ruthless kindness.
Peltola had four children while in office and left the legislature in 2009, citing the impact her travel had on her growing family.
In 2010, Peltola helped lead a successful campaign to include Senator Lisa Murkowski (R), who lost the Republican primary to Tea Party challenger Joe Miller. Peltola later told the Christian Science Monitor that Murkowski “really follows his own moral compass. This attracts the people of Alaska. We like people with independent thinking.”
According to her campaign website, after being elected to the legislature, Peltola also served as “community development and sustainability manager” for the Donlin Gold project in southwest Alaska. She also served one term on the Bethel City Council and was a state lobbyist. Since 2017, she has served as Executive Director of the Kuskokwim Intertribal Fisheries Commission.
Over the years, Peltola has been in contact with Alaska’s political leaders, including Young. She told a local radio station that she last saw him last November at his Washington office. She went to “give him stockfish, visit him and talk about legislation. I told him that I often thought about running for his seat.” They both laughed, she remembered.
In her campaign, Peltola has said she wants a national law to protect abortion rights and advocates for some gun control measures such as universal background checks. Asked if Trump was responsible for the Jan. 6 attack on the US Capitol, Peltola recently told Anchorage Daily News, “I have faith in our courts and judicial system. I have no doubt that after due process is completed, justice will prevail.”
Asked whether transgender athletes should be allowed to compete based on the gender they identify with, Peltola gave the newspaper a detailed answer: “My starting point is that sport should be fair for all students and we should protect the rights of all.” students, especially those who already experience significant discrimination.”
She also said that the recent Russian aggression proves the need to restore the US military presence in Alaska. When it comes to natural resources, Peltola also seems to be trying to balance the need for conservation with the need to ensure access to these resources for Alaska Natives and all residents of rural, underserved areas.
She opposes the development of Pebble Mine and supports construction of the proposed 200-mile Ambler Road, telling Anchorage Daily News that her support is contingent on adhering to “local support, usage restrictions and environmental standards.”
In May she wrote on twitter that voting in 2005 to cut teachers’ pensions, based in part on “inaccurate information from government actuaries”, was “the biggest regret of my legislative career”.
Throughout her career and during the campaign, Peltola developed a reputation for being an unusually sweet woman. In June, Alaska Public Radio called it her “superpower” and noted, among many examples, a brief exchange that month at a debate where Peltola sat next to Palin.
Although their careers have diverged since they were young mothers working in public politics, Peltola and Palin maintained an amiable spirit that was evident during the campaign.
In the debate, Peltola was just about to explain how, if elected, she would help fund the state’s most important infrastructure projects when Palin, mistakenly believing it was her turn to speak, began to respond.
As Palin began, Peltola smiled, lowered the microphone she was holding, and quietly signaled to the moderator that everything was fine. She even patted Palin on the shoulder, urging her to continue.
See how polite she is? Palin exclaimed. “That’s the way it should be in politics.”
While one race ends with Peltola’s victory, another race is on. Peltola, Palin and Begich all entered the November ballot in their bid for full two-year terms in Congress.