Notes from the trail: What the national media says about Alaska’s strange congressional race


Three of five congressional vacancies will be filled later this month when Democrat Reps.-Elect Pat Ryan, NY; Mary Peltola, Alaska; and Republican Rep.-Elect Joe Sempolinski, NY, are sworn in the House. Each won their special elections in August.

With Democrat Congressman Charlie Crist of Florida resigning to focus on his run for governor this fall, there are 430 House voting members at present — 219 Democrats and 211 Republicans.

It appears the Congresswoman-Elect Peltola swearing in ceremony will be Sept. 13, subject to change.

While we wait for the complete voter file to be released on the congressional race (how Palin voters ranked and how Peltola voters ranked), a roundup of writers who are offering their analyses about our recent special congressional race:

Newsweek did the math and said Nick Begich is the only one who can save Alaska’s red congressional seat. Read more here.

National Review: Palin instructed her voters not to rank anyone else. Did her voters comply? Some Nick Begich voters didn’t rank her.

Cook Political Report: House rating changes for Alaska turned it into a toss up. A quote from the story behind the paywall:

“Peltola’s triumph was a perfect storm. By far the biggest factor: Palin’s deep unpopularity in the state, registering over 60% in several polls. The Trump-endorsed Palin and the Alaska GOP-endorsed Begich mutually self-destructed while Peltola, a moderate tribal fisheries official, stayed above the fray. She ran on a positive pro-oil, pro-choice, “pro-fish” message and rolled up huge margins in the rural Bush, where Young had been highly popular.”

“The second biggest factor: Alaska’s brand new ranked-choice voting system. Peltola finished with 40% of first choice votes to 31% for Palin and 28% for Begich. In the end, 21% of Begich first-choice voters didn’t rank a second choice, “exhausting” those ballots. Palin only won the remaining Begich ballots 50%-29%, not enough to overcome Peltola. Alaska voters’ unfamiliarity with this new system likely played to Peltola’s advantage.”

Wall Street Journal wrote, “Imagine you’re an Alaska Democrat. The best scenario for your candidate, Ms. Peltola, might be a final showdown against Ms. Palin, meaning you want Mr. Begich to be eliminated.” Some quotes from behind the paywall:

“Alaska’s next Member of Congress will be a Democrat, Mary Peltola. She beat two Republicans in a special election held Aug. 16 under the state’s new ranked-choice voting system. Congratulations to Ms. Peltola, and no disrespect intended . . . but what in the heck? Alaska voted for President Trump in 2020 by 10 points. Is this now the true will of the electorate?

“The second-place finisher was Sarah Palin, and part of the story seems to be that Republicans were polarized by her history. Yet parsing the results is tricky given how these ranked-choice elections operate. The ballot lets voters choose multiple names in order of preference. If no candidate wins a majority, the bottom contender is eliminated, and that person’s voters are reassigned to their second choices (or third or fourth, as the process goes on).

“In Alaska, the first-choice votes show the GOP divide: Ms. Peltola led with 40.2%. Ms. Palin held 31.3%. Another Republican, Nick Begich, took 28.5%. That meant Mr. Begich was eliminated and then his supporters were reshuffled. Where did they go? Half ranked Ms. Palin second. Slightly more than a quarter migrated to Ms. Peltola, perhaps including some of the Republicans who couldn’t stand Ms. Palin.

“Imagine you’re an Alaska Democrat. The best scenario for your candidate, Ms. Peltola, might be a final showdown against Ms. Palin, meaning you want Mr. Begich to be eliminated. You might therefore conclude that the best use for your own ballot is to rank Ms. Palin first, ahead of the Democrat you actually want to win. Helping to knock out Mr. Begich early might improve Ms. Peltola’s overall odds.

“At this point our head starts to hurt. Ranked-choice elections are sometimes referred to as instant-runoff voting. What was the problem with regular, old-fashioned runoffs? No election method is perfect, and choosing candidates in partisan primaries has produced its share of turkeys and loons. But there’s something clarifying about a head-to-head argument between two candidates with different visions. Whoever wins has a mandate that isn’t cobbled together from second or third rankings.”

Washington Examiner wrote that Palin has stalled out:

“Sarah Palin’s political comeback bid stalled on Wednesday when Democrat Mary Peltola was declared the winner of a special election for Alaska’s at-large House seat. 

“Palin, who stepped down as governor of Alaska in 2009 after a failed run for vice president, competed against Peltola and Republican businessman Nick Begich III to finish out the term of longtime Rep. Don Young (R) following his death in March.

“That bid faltered this week, and election analysts expect a tough fight for Palin in the fall when she will face off again, this time for a full two-year term starting in January.

“Peltola’s win is the latest example of Democrats outperforming in special elections this cycle and suggests political headwinds won’t benefit Republicans as much as expected in the midterm elections. 

“But Palin also suffered from low approval ratings in the state as well as the rollout of a ranked choice voting system that favors centrists. 

“Despite earning the endorsement of former President Donald Trump, who carried Alaska by 10 points in 2020, Palin lost to Peltola 48.5% to 51.5%.”

Five Thirty Eight Podcast: Why Sarah Palin lost. It’s difficult to extrapolate from any race that has Palin in it because she’s famous and her negatives are so high. Senior elections analyst Nathaniel Rakich analyzes. Listen to the podcast here.

Palin is super friendly with Peltola: Sarah Palin called Mary Peltola a “real Alaskan chick” and indicated she will not take her on during the general election, and in fact is making big overtures to Peltola voters. Peltola, in turn, said the two women are “in this together”:

Nick Begich: The Republican candidate was on social media with a video clip of Palin saying, ““I was telling people all along, don’t comply!” with ranked choice voting. It’s at this link. Evidently he is not backing down. He said he’s going to D.C. to fight for Alaska, not to make nice with Democrats determined to crush our economy.

Tara Sweeney: Sweeney has completed her official withdrawal paperwork with the Division of Elections, which means it’s official that Chris Bye, the Libertarian, moves into the fourth spot on the congressional section of the ballot.

Charlie Pierce: Charlie Pierce, a Republican, has been pressured by social media posts from candidate Chris Kurka to withdraw from the governor’s race, but it appears he has no intention of doing so. Scott Kendall, the liberal lawyer who engineered the open primary and ranked choice voting, said he agreed with Kurka, that Pierce should get out. Kendall wants Kurka on the ballot, because Kurka will savage Gov. Mike Dunleavy and make it more possible that Kendall’s chosen candidate Bill Walker would win. Sept. 5 is the deadline for withdrawing.

Bill Walker: The Anchorage Daily News has been printing a steady stream of endorsement op-eds for Bill Walker for governor. As for Walker, he got his feelings hurt when Gov. Mike Dunleavy pointed out that the Dunleavy Administration had cleared all the rape kits that Walker had not dealt with. Walker wrote, “Unfortunately Mike Dunleavy has a lot to say lately about my track record on rape kits. So here are the facts: 1) Politicizing the suffering of rape victims is unacceptable. 2) It is well-documented that I made the rape kit backlog a top priority of my time as governor. 3) The record is also crystal clear that Dunleavy has fallen short repeatedly in supporting rape victims. Trying to pass the blame of his own failures and use this issue as a political ploy is disgraceful. Alaskans deserve better than Dunleavy.”

Mike Dunleavy: Usually in the fall, Dunleavy and can be found out in the Aleutians or in Kodiak, hunting or packing meat out from a wounded warrior hunt. But this year, no hunting for the governor, who will be focused on his campaign. He spent Saturday at the Alaska State Fair at the 4-H auction. This week, expect the exact amount of the Permanent Fund dividend to be announced by the governor from this official side, not campaign side, but it cannot help but give him a boost with Alaskans.

Tuckerman Babcock vs. Jesse Bjorkman: Kenai Senate race is getting some contrast going between the candidates on whether the candidates support ranked choice voting. For years, teacher Jesse Bjorkman has supported RCV quite publicly, but now has switched his position and says he will oppose it. Babcock has remained steadfastly firm against the scheme set up by Ballot Measure 2.

Kelly Tshibaka: Running for U.S. Senate, she’s been at the Alaska State Fair meeting people this weekend and celebrates her birthday on Monday.

Lisa Murkowski: A breakfast with Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Jason Liberty, the CEO of Royal Caribbean, is on the schedule for Wednesday, Sept. 7, 8 am at the Egan Center in Anchorage. Suggested donation is $1,000. RSVP to [email protected].

Pat Chesbro: A fundraiser for the Democrat on the ballot for the U.S. Senate is set for Wednesday, Sept. 7 at 6 pm at the Susan Wingrove-Richard Reed home in Rogers Park in Anchorage, with co-hosts Les Gara, Tom Begich, Elvi Gray-Jackson, Chris Tuck, Harriet Drummond, Will Hurr, Michelle Turner, Carl Johnson, Jeremy Houston, Diane DiSanto, Anita Thorn, Erik Gunderson, Deborah Bonito, Kay Brown, Robin Smith, Linda Sharp, Betty Hertz, Anita Thorne, Genevieve Mina, Susan Soule, Christy Willer, Charity Kadow, and Caroline Storm .


  1. It’s clear we should have only 1 Republican candidate. Or, have 2 and have one of them drop out at the last minute. Otherwise, we’ll have the same result, Republicans splitting the vote and the lone Democrat taking he win.

  2. Sarah will back Peltola, not Nick Begich. You people who supported Sarah are nothing but fools, being played by the biggest shister in Alaska politics.

  3. Clearly the media is delusional. Sarah is holy. Sarah is perfect. Sarah is more favored by God than Jesus.

    Just ask her cult. Especially the ones who are refusing to acknowledge their messiah seems to have voted Mary over Nick for position 2.

    Once again, special thanks to Porcaro for leading the fight to inflict ranked choice on us.

  4. Back in June, after she won the Primary, Sarah said with Rank Choice Voting “The last of the 4 Finishers could Win the Election.” So much for calling her UNSMART all the time. Other people’s numbers and opinions could be crushed by a Sound Bite not yet said. We won’t know till middle November. Thank You Suzanne for staying up late and putting this together for us.

  5. Everyone seems to be missing an important point: Mary Peltola, whether you agree with her politics or not, is by character and action a NICE person. No one will ever get the Bush vote by being disrespectful – disrespect is anathema in the Bush. Perhaps Sarah Palin’s team understands this? Republicans need to get our act together and unite around one candidate. Ignore 50,000 Bush votes at your peril.

    • “…….Mary Peltola, whether you agree with her politics or not, is by character and action a NICE person……..”
      No doubt about it. She is a very nice person.
      I feel so much better watching the nation and state devolve while under the leadership of nice people. Despite healing the economy in record time, and we watched it get worse in mere days after Biden got into office, Trump posted mean tweets. Orange Man bad! Let’s elect nice people to destroy us!

      • Peltola is nice, unless you are an unborn baby!!! Then she will grab he uluJust like she did for that sacrificial salmon in her ad

  6. Alaskans are waiting for Bill Walker to address his concerns on pedophilia, child molestation, and child rape. So when can we expect it, Bill?

    • I’m not waiting on Walker for anything. He set up all residents to have their PFDs stolen. He thinks he’s above the law. He paid THOUSANDS and THOUSANDS of dollars to his attorney friends to talk to China. He shouldn’t even be on the ballot imo.

  7. What’s so strange about a bunch of folks voting for something that is to their collective benefit? A lot of folks do things based on fears, but why not vote for something that benefits all?

    • Brutally put. Stick your collective.
      The nice thing about being old is I’ve seen what acting for the collective does. Poverty, starvation, destruction of family. You can have it.

      I vote my best interest (nobody else will) and partner with people whose own best interests benefit mine. We lift each other up while advancing our own agendas.

  8. The silence by the Palinheads regarding Queen Sarah’s alleged ranking of Mary #2 is both telling and deafening.

  9. Begich is not likable by Alaskans, his financial disclosures are unclear, his businesses that he claims to have are unverifiable, and he doesn’t have any political experience at any level. In my opinion he is the spoiler of the Republican Party and he should step down.

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