Thursday, June 1, 2023
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Alaska dropped from first to nearly dead last in seniority in the U.S. House. Peltola would put Alaska at the bottom

There is a practical side to the Nov. 8 congressional election that most Alaskans never consider: No matter who wins the at-large U.S. House of Representatives seat for Alaska, they’ll be starting at the bottom in seniority.

Just how far down at the bottom depends on whether Alaska votes in a Democrat who will be the starting at the bottom of the barrel in a Republican-led House.

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With the death of Congressman Don Young in March and the temporary seat filled by Mary Peltola, Alaska dropped from first to nearly last in seniority in the U.S. House.

How seniority is calculated is key: Members of the House are arranged by the number of terms they have served, before being ranked by the beginning date of their most recent continuous service. In instances where members have served the same number of terms and have the same date of service, they are arranged alphabetically by last name.

Thus, a “ranking minority” member on a committee would be the minority member with the most seniority. They don’t have any real power on the committee, but they have a title.

The calculation for how long members have served has its own clock, which starts from the time they are elected. In Alaska’s ranked choice voting, compliments of Ballot Measure 2, the results will be some of the last to be known in the United States. Being further west, our “time elected” starts on the election certification date — Nov. 29.

Peltola is, at present, ranked 430 among 432 members of the House. As a Democrat in a Nancy Pelosi-led majority, she enjoyed the advantage of being given the courtesy of filling out the term of Don Young, and thus was awarded to finish the term in some of his committee seats.

That will change in January, when the new members are sworn in and Republicans take over.

This is an aspect that Sen. Lisa Murkowski knows well. She is going to be as high as 15th in seniority in the Senate, and if the Senate moves into Republican leadership, she will enjoy her top ranking.

And yet, Murkowski, who knows the importance of seniority for Alaska’s only congressional seat, has endorsed Peltola. Murkowski would rather see Peltola powerless in the House than see a Republican who can get things done in the majority.

Political pundits say that Peltola won’t stay in the House, because the Democratic National Committee will tap her to challenge Sen. Dan Sullivan in three years. Sullivan comes up for reelection in 2026.

Such a scenario, with Murkowski pulling for Pelosi and Biden with her endorsement of Peltola, makes for an awkward dynamic in the Alaska delegation.

Ballot Measure 2, with its open primary and ranked choice general election, has put Alaska in a weak position in the U.S. House. It has also created a difficult timeline for governance in the Alaska Governor’s Office. It was designed by Murkowski supporters expressly for the reelection campaign of Sen. Lisa Murkowski, and it remains to be seen if it will work as it was intended in that race.

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Suzanne Downing
Suzanne Downing
Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.


  1. “This is an aspect that Sen. Lisa Murkowski knows well. She is going to be as high as 15th in seniority in the Senate, and if the Senate moves into Republican leadership, she will enjoy her top ranking.”

    You know, Princess Lisa hasn’t won the election yet.

  2. I do not like how Jr members are treated, with little power, office in the coat closet, and blocked from good committees and from presenting bills without party approval ect. Doesn’t this violate the “equal representation” mandate? Perhaps term limits are a very good idea.

    • Its just the way it is. Its just as employment. Wouldn’t be fair to longest working employees cutting their hours to give them to the shortest employed employees or passing on promotions to newer workers who hadn’t proven themselves.

  3. This article appears to be confusing/conflating two different premises, and it gets one of those absolutely wrong. If Republicans win the majority of seats in the upcoming House election, then Republicans would be the majority party (and the article correctly identifies) that Mary Peltola would be in the minority party. However, if Mary Peltola wins and keeps her house seat, then she would be far from the lowest ranked member in the house. Mary Peltola would not be a freshman House member, so any new members elected (from either party) in 2022 to serve in the next House term would have less seniority. Even if every incumbent running won their seat, the winner from any open seat would be a freshman. This sort of misinformation does not help the political process or the public.

    • MRAK Fan, your reasoning fails to take into account the Majority vs Minority system of Committee appointments. You see as a low ranking Wokester in the next congress Mary will be be far from any committee assignment that actually will be of a benefit to Alaskans. The same will not be true of Nick or Sarah, since they will be in the Majority and will be put in positions of importance to their States.

  4. Whoever wins the House seat will be in the bottom on the seniority ladder. Because Mary won the special she will rank a tad higher on the seniority list than a freshman democrat elected in November. But that wont determine her effectiveness. Mary would be a unicorn in several respects. A blue seat from a deep red state. A member of the bipartisan Native American Caucus. And a member of the President’s party. If leadership wants to keep the seat in 2024 it will need to help Mary out. If she plays her cards well, builds relationships and takes advantage of the opportunities she might well outperform expectations. Overall my expectations for an R led Congress in 2023 are pretty low if the promised investigations (Biden impeachment?) dominate and Mr McCarthy cant get anything done because of rancor in his caucus. That creates opportunity for a D unicorn who can tune it out and work the WH and agencies aggressively on Alaska’s behalf. If Im wrong about this, change will come kn 2024. As to Murkowski’s role — in a Senate that needs 60 votes to pass nearly the everything the House leadership Murkowski will continue to play a pivotal role in assembling coalitions for legislative action.

  5. Well, I expect Nick-B to be a great Representative // Leader for Alaska and Alaskans. He’ll be our best bet to make meaningful progress.

    • You are incorrect.
      By the way, she is the toughest member of congress and can change a flat tire at -20 below barehanded and not lose her smile 😉

      • You made his point, joe. Anyone who changes a tire with their barehands at -20° is an idiot, probably an alcoholic, and demonstrates a lack of respect for Northern living. But in Peltola’s case, she can always call the BIA, or her Native Corporation, and have her flown to Anchorage and treated at the Native hospital for free. Whites pay their own way. There,…I stated the Truth.

        • Tiffany,
          You said it. Natives, more than any other ethnicity, perish from cold exposure in Alaska.
          The reason: Alcohol.

      • Joe, As The Legend of Mary of Many Names Grows… it will always be because of her smile!

        RANK the RED folks and don’t be fooled

  6. RCV is the gift that keeps giving. Thanks in large part to a conservative talk show host who swore it would increase conservative opportunities.

  7. Here’s the problem with this article: There will be about 80 new members of the House in January. Mary will be ahead of all of them while NB3 or SP will be close to the bottom. If seniority is an issue for you voting for Mary Peltola makes sense. Mary will likely chair or be ranking member on a subcommittee.

    • How can Mary be ahead of them all? When NB3/SP gets elected, she’ll be out of the picture. She will have lost her election.

  8. Peltola will be nothing more than a stooge for the democrat party. She won’t have any seniority because the Republicans will have a substantial majority in both the house and senate

  9. Mary’s seniority will be irrelevant. Republicans will control congress and she’ll get put in a corner somewhere while the R’s try to unscrew the absolute disaster of the past couple of years. Alaska will have no voice in the House if she’s elected.

    And Murkowski is just too plain stupid and naive to help us out in the Senate if she wins again. The reason McConnell threw big dollars at her campaign is because she’s a tool that can be easily manipulated into deals where she gives her vote and Alaska gets nothing in return. After appeasing Mitch and the Democrats there’s just no room left to listen to what we as Alaskans really need.

    None of this is good for Alaska.

  10. Funny how this news website is trying to make a point about Peltola’s lack of seniority in the House when its basically a campaign arm of the Tshibaka Senate race. Where do you think her seniority will be should she defeat Murkowski? Hmmm?

  11. All of this assumes the worse. We are riding a Red Wave and I don’t think Murkowski will hold. Peltola might but let’s look at the numbers. Only ~175,000 people voted in the election Peltola won. In 2020 around ~344,000 Alaskans voted.

    So don’t assume the same outcome Tuesday. And Republicans are much more enthusiastic and I expect higher turnout among them. As long as Republicans can grow up, get wise and Rank the Red.. we will win this.

  12. Alaska is home, & a very special place that we’re all proud of. It’s shameful & embarrassing to see RCV designed by, of, & for Murkowski! It’s even worse to offer up Peltola to DC! She will be a much more lowly freshman than I ever was!

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