Alaska Rep.-elect ‘optimistic’ about November following historic special election

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Mary Peltola, Alaska's choice to fill a vacant House seat in a special election determined this week, said Sunday she's “very optimistic about the ranked choice voting system.”

“I’m trying not to get too bogged down in worrying and fretting,” the Democrat said on MSNBC's “Yasmin Vossoughian Reports.”
“Of course, I do have November in my sights. We only have three weeks to get things done.”

Peltola was the first person elected through the state's new ranked-choice voting system, a surprise Democratic victory in a special election to fill the seat of Rep. Don Young, who died in March after almost 50 years in office. To maintain her seat past the end of the year, Peltola will have to win again in the regular election in November.

Peltola also addressed her relationship with Republican rival and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who reportedly complimented Peltola as “a real Alaskan chick” following Peltola's win. Peltola will face both Palin and Republican Nick Begich III again in the fall.

“I do expect attacks [approaching the November election], and I got my fair share of attacks here in this special election, but I do feel a sense of camaraderie and fraternity with the other people who are running,” Peltola said.

Under the new system, voters rank their choices in order of preference, rather than just picking one. If no candidate receives a majority of first-place votes, the remaining ballots are reallocated from the lowest-performing finishers to second or third choices until one hopeful secures more than half the vote.

The Cook Political Report last week updated the race from “likely Republican” to “toss-up,” indicating the Alaska Democrat may have shed her underdog status for the fall.

Peltola is the first Alaskan elected to Congress who was born in the state itself. She’s also the first Democrat elected to the House from Alaska since 1970, and only the second Democrat elected to either the House or U.S. Senate in the last 40 years.

Madison Fernandez contributed to this report.

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