Meet Mary Peltola, the 'pro-fish and pro-choice' Democrat who defeated Sarah Palin in Alaska's special House election

Mary Peltola defeated Sarah Palin in the Alaska House special election for a vacated seat Wednesday, August 31..
Mary Peltola defeated Sarah Palin in the Alaska House special election for a vacated seat Wednesday, August 31..AP Photo/Becky Bohrer
  • Mary Peltola won the at-large seat for Alaska in the House special election Wednesday night.

  • The Democrat defeated former vice presidential nominee and Republican Governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin.

  • Peltola describes herself as, "pro-jobs, pro-fish, pro-family, and pro-choice."

Mary Peltola became the first Alaska Native person to be elected to the House of Representatives in a special election Wednesday night.

"It is overwhelming. And it's a very good feeling. I'm very grateful Alaskans have put their trust in me," Peltola told the Washington Post following her win. "I will be going right to work."

Peltola achieved a number of firsts with this victory. Aside from being the first Alaskan Native, she is the first woman to ever represent Alaska in the US House and the first Democrat to do so since 1972.

 

A "GOOD DAY," as Peltola described it on Twitter, the special election was held on the eve of her 49th birthday, August 31.

She defeated Republican Sarah Palin, Alaska's former governor and the late-John McCain's vice presidential running mate when he ran against Barack Obama and Joe Biden in 2008. She'll serve the remainder of former Rep. Don Young's term following his death in March and will be up for election to a full term in November.

Peltola and Palin have known each other since they both served in the state house and are friendly with one another. During a debate on the campaign trail Palin accidentally answered a question when it was Peltola's turn. Peltola urged Palin to continue answering. Palin said of Peltola, "See how polite she is? This is the way it should be in politics."

Alaska Public Radio described Peltola's kindness as her "superpower."

Both Peltola and Palin's offices did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.

The Democrat, born in 1973,  describes herself as, "pro-jobs, pro-fish, pro-family, and pro-choice." She is Yup'ik Alaskan Native and worked as a herring and salmon technician for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

After interning with the Alaska legislature, Peltola ran to represent the Bethel region in the western part of the state, but lost.

"It's a really good thing I didn't win around that time," Peltola told the Coffee & Quac podcast in August.

Following the loss, Peltola worked as a reporter until she ran again in 1998 leading her to serve in the Alaska House of Representatives for 10 years. She had four children during that time.

During her tenure as a lawmaker, Peltola rebuilt the so-called Bush Caucus, aiding to pass legislation and increase budgets, improving the lives of people in rural Alaska, per her campaign website.

She worked on the Donlin gold mine project and served as the executive director of the Kuskokwim River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, where she helped mobilize 118 tribes and rural Alaskans to advocate for the protection of salmon runs in the western regions of the state.

An advocate for abortion rights, Peltola is endorsed by the Planned Parenthood Action Fund.

"Everyone deserves quality health care. That includes access to safe, legal abortions, with no exceptions," Peltola told Alaska Public Media's KTOO. "A repeal of abortion access would disproportionately impact people of color and low-income women who already experience unfair barriers to health care."

After leaving office, Peltola assisted GOP Senator Lisa Murkowski on her 2010 campaign following her Republican primary loss.

 

"While it will be impossible for Alaska to replace Congressman Young, Mary has a long track record of public service to our great state–including our time working together in the Alaska State Legislature," Murkowski tweeted after Peltola's win.

As of July 27, 2022, her campaign raised $379,088, still less than all of three of her opponents, including Palin, who raised over $1 million, according to Ballotpedia.

Now, the victorious Peltola will represent her home state in Congress. Although she has one win under her belt, she is a candidate for the November election to take on the full two-year House term come January 2023.

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