Lisa Murkowski and Mary Peltola win Alaska races, defeating Trump-backed opponents


On Wednesday, Democratic Rep. Mary Peltola became the first Alaska Native to win a full term in Congress, securing re-election along with Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who both defeated challenges endorsed by former President Donald Trump after state officials A final round of vote-counting has been completed.

Peltola, who made history with his special election victory in August, and Murkowski, a senator for two decades, were leading after previous vote counts. But the victory for centrist lawmakers didn’t come until Wednesday, when the Alaska Division of Elections redistributed votes under the state’s new ranked-choice voting system.

At a victory party at a downtown Anchorage brewery Wednesday night, Peltola told reporters that the Alaskans had given him “a two-year deal.”

“And I will be happy to work for Alaskans again, as long as they will have me,” he said. His victory, he added, shows that Alaskans “wholeheartedly embrace non-partisanship and work together.”

In the race for governor, Republican Mike Dunleavy won reelection with more than 50 percent of the vote, avoiding the ranked choice process.

Peltola and Murkowski crossed party lines to endorse each other before the election, forming an alliance rooted in similar spaces they occupy on the political spectrum. The victories capped an election season in which voters across the country have tended to show a preference for incumbents in battleground races.

Murkowski said in a statement Wednesday night, “I am honored that the people of Alaska – of all regions, origins and party affiliations – have once again granted me the confidence to continue working with them and on their behalf in the US Senate.” I look forward to continuing the important work ahead of us.”

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The result marked another blow for Trump in this year’s midterm elections. Many candidates affiliated with the former president and his polarizing stance have fallen short in battleground contests, and his overall record has been mixed in competitive races where he has endorsed. That list includes former Republican governor Sarah Palin, who challenged Peltola with Trump’s support, and Republican Kelly Tshibaka, a former state and federal official who ran against Murkowski with the former president’s support.

After the last round of ranked voting, Murkowski had 53.7 percent of the vote to 46.3 percent for Tshibaka. In the House race, Peltola won 55 percent of the vote to Palin’s 45 percent.

Peltola ran a locally focused campaign on traditional and unconventional Democratic platform planks — touting his support for abortion rights and “pro-fish” views, as well as his endorsement of a new Alaskan oil project. large collection of weapons that he and his family keep.

Peltola’s victory clinches his first two-year term on Capitol Hill and follows his victory in August to temporarily fill his only seat in the U.S. House — one vacated by the sudden death of longtime Republican Rep. Don Young. Peltola defeated Palin in that race as well, becoming the first Alaskan congresswoman and the state’s first woman to fill the seat.

Peltola is the first Democrat elected to Congress in Alaska since 2008, when Mark Begich unseated Republican Sen. Ted Stevens just months after Stevens was indicted for allegedly making false statements related to his financial disclosures.

Meanwhile, Murkowski will soon begin serving his fourth six-year term in the Senate, after his nomination to the chamber in 2002 by his father, then governor Frank Murkowski who was recently elected. His campaign highlighted his work to bring infrastructure money to Alaska, his support for the state’s oil and fishing industries, and his close relationship with Alaska Native constituencies.

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Trump has long vowed to oust the senator, and predicted in 2018 that he would “never recover” politically for voting against one of his Supreme Court nominees, Brett M. Kavanaugh. Tshibaka joined Trump at a rally at an Anchorage arena in July.

Palin, the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee, also appeared with Trump in July. He lost both the special and general elections after splitting the conservative vote with Nick Begich III, a Republican from a prominent Alaska Democratic family. (Begich is a nephew of Mark Begich and a grandson of Nick Begich Sr., who held the Alaska seat in the US House before a plane carrying him across the state disappeared in 1972.)

Jim Lottsfeldt, a centrist political consultant who has worked with pro-Murkowski and pro-Peltola super PACs, said he’s not sure Trump’s endorsement offered Palin and Tshibaka much help. Alaska, he said, is small enough that many people who follow politics judge candidates on personal interactions.

“We all have those opinions we’ve earned by looking someone in the eye,” Lottsfeldt said in a telephone interview Tuesday. “Donald Trump won’t tell me anything about Sarah Palin that I don’t already know.”

This year’s election was the first in Alaska under the state’s new voting framework, which residents approved as part of a 2020 citizen initiative partially funded and led by allies of Murkowski. The system overhauled primary elections by eliminating partisan races and moving the top four vote-getters from a single open ballot to the general election.

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In general elections, voters are allowed to rank candidates according to their preferences. If no candidate receives a majority of the first-choice votes, the candidate with the lowest vote total is eliminated, and the votes of those candidates’ supporters are carried over to the next choice. The process repeats until there are two candidates left and a winner can be declared.

A number of Alaska conservatives, led by Palin, attacked the new system as complicated and unreliable, even though there was no evidence of any technical problems or foul play. At an event last week, the former governor was the first to sign a new petition to get rid of the system.

The repeal campaign could face an uphill battle. One avenue for criticism is a repeal by the Alaska legislature — where a number of seats will now be filled by candidates who won races this year at least partially because of the new voting process.

Residents could also override the system through a citizens’ initiative. But polls released by supporters after the August primary election showed that more than 60 percent of Alaskans approve of him.

Although the new election system remains intact, Peltola’s allies expect him to face strong challenges from Republicans when his term expires in two years.

One of the driving forces behind Peltola this year was a national Democratic network that helped her raise more than $5.5 million through mid-October — more than triple the $1.7 million and $1.6 million that Palin and Begich respectively collected in contributions. campaigns.


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