Democrat Mary Peltola Makes History As First Alaska Native Elected To Congress

by | Aug 31, 2022 | Politics

Alaska has elected its first Indigenous person to federal office after Democrat Mary Peltola won a runoff election to fill the remainder of the late Republican Rep. Don Young’s term.Peltola is a former state legislator and a Yup’ik Eskimo. She beat two well-known Republicans — former Gov. Sarah Palin and Nick Begich, whose family has deep roots in Alaska politics — in the Aug. 16 runoff, the results of which were certified Wednesday.AdvertisementThe election was ranked choice, a system in which voters list candidates in order of preference. If no one wins a majority of first-place rankings, the last-place finisher is eliminated and their votes are redistributed to voters’ second choices. The process can repeat until one candidate attains a majority.In an interview with HuffPost in July, Peltola said she felt a connection with Young, who was the most senior member of the House when he died in March, having served as the state’s sole congressman since 1973.“[My parents] campaigned for Don when my mom was pregnant with me. So I’ve always really felt close to Don Young, of course, but also the seat,” Peltola said, describing the connection as a “really funny, quirky, very Alaskan coincidence.”“I always knew how long Don had been in office, because it was my age plus 1,” she said.Whether Peltola can continue to hold the seat past the end of the 117th Congress in January remains to be seen. The runoff to determine who would finish Young’s term also set the November ballot for a full two-year term in the House. In that election, Peltola is again set to face Palin and Begich, but her incumbency may provide a slight advantage by then.AdvertisementPeltola told HuffPost in July that her big issues included declining salmon runs and their impact on rural Alaskans.“We’d have so many fish you couldn’t process them. And now, we worry that we won’t have enough,” she said.“That’s a huge problem for Alaska statewide. That’s every river in the state.”The decrease is linked to the climate crisis, she argued, and Congress not updating laws governing commercial fishing to reflect new environmental realities.Peltola also supports efforts …

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