Peltola, who made history with her August special election win, and Murkowski, a senator for two decades, led after earlier vote counts. But the centrist lawmakers’ victories were not clinched until Wednesday, when the Alaska Division of Elections redistributed votes under the state’s new ranked-choice voting system.
“I am honored that Alaskans — of all regions, backgrounds and party affiliations — have once again granted me their confidence to continue working with them and on their behalf in the U.S. Senate,” Murkowski said in a statement Wednesday night. “I look forward to continuing the important work ahead of us.”
Peltola’s win secures her first full two-year term on Capitol Hill and follows her victory in August to temporarily fill her state’s only seat in the U.S. House — one that was vacated after the sudden death of longtime Republican Rep. Don Young. Peltola beat Palin in that race, too, becoming the first Alaska Native member of Congress and her 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 a few months after Stevens was indicted for allegedly making false statements related to his financial disclosures.
Murkowski, meanwhile, will soon begin serving her fourth six-year term in the Senate, following her 2002 appointment to the chamber by her father, then newly elected governor Frank Murkowski. Her campaign highlighted her work to bring infrastructure money to Alaska, her support for the state’s oil and fishing industries, and her close relationships with Alaska Native constituencies.
Palin, the 2008 Republican vice-presidential nominee, also appeared with Trump in July. She 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 Alaska’s U.S. House seat before a plane carrying him across the state disappeared in 1972.)
Jim Lottsfeldt, a centrist political consultant who worked with pro-Murkowski and pro-Peltola super PACs, said he’s not sure that Trump’s endorsements 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 these opinions we’ve earned by looking someone in the eye,” Lottsfeldt said in a phone interview Tuesday. “Donald Trump’s not going to tell me anything about Sarah Palin that I don’t already know.”
This year’s elections were Alaska’s first under the state’s new voting framework, which residents narrowly approved in a 2020 citizens’ initiative that was partially funded and run by Murkowski allies. The system overhauled primary elections by eliminating partisan races and advancing the top four vote-getters from a single open ballot to the general election.
In the general election, voters are allowed to rank candidates based on their preferences. If no candidate receives a majority of first-choice votes, the candidate with the lowest vote totals is eliminated, and that candidate’s supporters’ votes are reassigned to their next choices. The process repeats until there are two candidates left and a winner can be declared.
The repeal campaign might face an uphill battle. One path for critics is a repeal by Alaska’s 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.
One dynamic boosting 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 campaign contributions.
This content was originally published here.