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Democrat Defeats Palin In Alaska House Race

Holland McKinnie
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Incumbent Rep. Mary Peltola (D-AK) has been declared the winner of Alaska’s single seat in the House of Representatives after two weeks of counting ballots following the state’s first general election using a complex ranked-choice system. Peltola won a special election in August to complete the term of deceased Rep. Don Young (R-AK) and will now serve a full term after defeating former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R).  

Alaska’s new system had four candidates advance from the primary election held in August to the November 8 general election. Along with Peltola and Palin, Republican Nick Begich and Libertarian Party candidate Chris Bye appeared on the general election ballot.

The state adopted the new ranked-choice system in 2020, replacing its traditional method of holding partisan primaries. The system allows voters in the general election to rank the four candidates in order of preference on their ballots. 

The first count of ballots counts only the first choice of each voter. If one candidate receives a simple majority of the vote after the first count, the election is over and that candidate is declared the winner. 

If no candidate receives a majority of the first count votes, the candidate with the fewest top-preference votes is eliminated and the race proceeds to a second ballot count. In the second count, voters who had the eliminated candidate as their top choice have their second choice vote counted. All the first-choice votes for the remaining candidates are counted again.

That process repeats until a single candidate receives a majority of all votes counted in one of the ballot counts.

Palin wrote an op-ed in October that sharply criticized the complicated ranked-choice system that saw Peltola elected in the August special election. She said the system “produced the travesty of sending a Democrat to Congress to represent Alaska, one of the reddest states in the country.”

Palin also ran for vice president in 2008 alongside presidential candidate Arizona Sen. John McCain. That Republican ticket lost in the electoral college race to Barack Obama and Joe Biden.

Palin campaigned for the House this year on an America First platform that called for re-opening oil and gas production in her state in order to restore the country’s once-secure energy independence. She said in her op-ed last month: “We need to drill baby, drill. “Energy costs are the driver of inflation. Energy costs affect everything that we do in America and everything that we consume.”

President Donald Trump endorsed Palin in the Alaska House race and Republican Kelly Tshibaka in the Senate race against incumbent Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK). Murkowski defeated Tshibaka and also benefited from the new complex ranked-choice system.