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November 18th  , 2023       Political Note #600 Mary Peltola Alaska At Large

2024                                          General Election

Americans are conscious of the immigrants of the past – Scots Irish, Germans, Scandinavians, Irish, Chinese, Japanese, Italians, Jews from Germany, Jews from Eastern Europe, They are all Americans now.  We barely have a consciousness of their separateness or their minority status.  If these people were wronged by the country they immigrated into, most of those wrongs were minor in comparison to the wrongs that led them to leave Europe or Asia in the first place.

The minorities whose members we are particularly conscious of now are different.  Their ancestors were wronged by Americans.  Native Americans who were displaced, killed, herded to reservations, subject to efforts to rob them of their heritage. African Americans purchased wholesale from Africa, sold retail as slaves in America, robbed of their heritage, discriminated against after slavery ended.

Hispanics or Latinos.  What might have been a country to emigrate to with a culture like their own was conquered by the United States and became Arizona, California, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Utah, and parts of Colorado and Wyoming.  Some Hispanics in the United States are descended from people who were in the areas which became those states before they were conquered.  The story of Native Americans, African Americans, and Hispanics becoming fully a part of the United States of America is different from the story of the Europeans and the Asians.

Mary Peltola’s mother is a Yup’ik from Kwethluk. Make that into a song if you can.  ‘Her dad was a German American from Nebraska.

When she was elected to Congress in September 2022, she created a highwater mark of six native Americans in Congress at the same time.  She joined Cherokees Yvette Herrell (R-NM), Markwayne Mullin (R-OK) and Native Hawaiian Kaiali’I Kahele.  Herrell was defeated for reelection, but is running again.  Mullin was elected to the US Senate. Kahele ran for governor of Hawaii, but lost in the Democratic primary.  Mary Peltola also joined Ho Chunk Sharice Davids (D-KS) and Chickasaw Tom Cole (R-OK).  By the time she took office, she had missed serving with Laguna Pueblo Deb Haaland (D-NM) who had been appointed US Secretary of the Interior.  She has since been joined by Chocktaw Josh Brecheen (R-OK).

Native Americans who have been successful in American politics have been elected from states in the American West.  They are nearly evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats.  Mary Peltola has a different distinction.  She is Congress’s only member of the Russian Orthodox Church.  More important, Mary Peltola is a Democrat who is comfortable with Republicans.  If she were not, she could never have been elected in very Republican Alaska.

After a career as city councilor, state representative, tribal judge, and intertribal fish commission Executive Director, as well as having had the experience of being a Miss National Congress of American Indians, Mary Peltola spent some time helping Republican Lisa Murkowski. An incumbent US Senator, Murkowski lost the Republican primary in 2010 (more than a decade before Alaska adopted ranked choice voting).

Murkowski would not go quietly. Actually, she would not go at all. She put her candidacy in front of all Alaskans, not just those who voted in the Republican primary.  Because she was not on the ballot, to remain in the Senate, she had to run as a write in.  Mary Peltola helped that run.   She helped Murkowski win the election using a write-in campaign.

It is even harder now to predict Alaska’s elections.  It is even a little hard to understand what happened that got Mary Peltola elected.  Alaska had adopted a distinctive election system.  The process begins with a multi-party or non-partisan primary.  The top four vote-getters in this primary are chosen for the next round. Ranked choice is used for the selection of the winner from among the four finalists.

Alaska’s Congressman, Don Young, died in March, 2022.  Alaska scheduled a special election to replace him, the first election to use its new ranked choice system.

In the special election, Mary Peltola was the only Democrat to advance.  She was fourth of four.  Al Gross, previously endorsed by Democrats in other races and running as an Independent, came in third.  He withdrew from the race and endorsed Mary Peltola.  The two remaining candidates were Businessman Nick Begich III, one of the few Republicans in the well-known Alaskan Democratic family, and former Governor and former Vice Presidential candidate Sara Palin.

In the vote for what was now the three finalists, Mary Peltola led for first place, but she did not have a majority of the vote. In the ranked choice calculations second place Sara Palin was supported by two thirds of the Begich supporters.  That was not quite enough to prevent Mary Peltola, from remaining first and winning the election with the required majority of the vote.

Having been elected to Congress, Mary Peltola had to run again in the general election in November. Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski was also on the ballot.  One a Democrat, the other a Republican, they nevertheless endorsed each other.  Mary Peltola led in the multi-party first round, then gained 49% in the next round of voting.  It did not take much to get her over 50% after the elimination of the third place candidate, the familiar Nick Begich III. 

 In 2024, Mary Peltola will run again against Nick Begich III.  This time it looks like there will be only one more candidate – a frequent candidate running this time from the No Labels Party.

In Congress, Mary Peltola was judicious making staff appointments.  She chose a Republican former State Senator who had been in the mix in the special election in 2022 to run her Alaska office.  She persuaded the former Congressman Don Young’s chief of staff to remain and run her office.  He stayed in that role for a year.

Despite being sort of a freshman, Mary Peltola had a legislative success.  She got a bill passed – the creation of an Office of Food Security in the Department of Veteran’s Affairs. She took a symbolic action and was one of the few Democrats to vote against imposing a contract on rail workers threatening to strike.  She had a success with the administration. She persuaded the White House to approve the Willow oil drilling project in Alaska.

Notwithstanding the drilling project, her environmental interests were visible in her commitment to an approach to fishing that makes taking care of the environment a priority.  She voted for the Respect for Marriage Act which mandated recognition of same-sex marriage.  She denounced those who sought to prevent trans youth from competing in sports in their chosen gender describing such legislation as bullying and making hard lives even harder.

The closest anyone could find to a scandal for Mary Peltola was an error that listed her as leaving as a student at the University of Northern Colorado in 1994 when she actually left in 1993.  During her campaigns, she frequently pointed out that she did not have a college degree.  So far, Mary Peltola is scandal free.

Her election in 2024, however, is not automatic.  Running in a campaign where there is only one Republican opponent will be different.  Will she be able to keep enough Republicans with her so that she wins a majority of the vote quickly in the first round of the ranked voting?  Running for election in Alaska is expensive.  Candidates have to fly from place to place.  Help Mary Peltola fly; help her win this election.

House races in the Northwest and the Pacific 

 Adam Gray in CA 13 is running against John Duarte, who is #2 on Len’s List of vulnerable Republican incumbents and #1 on Daily Kos’s List.  See Len’s Political Note #586

 Incumbent Marie Gluesenkamp Perez WA 03 is #4 among vulnerable Democratic incumbents on Len’s List and #2 on Daily Kos’s list of vulnerable Democratic incumbents.  See Len’s Political Note #543

Incumbent Andrea Andrea Salinas OR 06 is #6 among vulnerable Democratic incumbents on Len’s List and tied for #22 on Daily Kos’s list.  See Len’s Political Note #548

 Incumbent Jim Costa CA 21 is #14 among vulnerable Democratic incumbents on Len’s List See Len’s Political Note #566

 Will Rollins in CA 41 is running against Ken Calvert who is #17 on Len’s List of vulnerable Republican incumbents and tied at #19 on Daily Kos’s List. See Len’s Political Note #588

 Incumbent Mike Levin CA 49 is #25 among vulnerable Democratic incumbents on Len’s List and #25 on Daily Kos’s List.  See Len’s Political Note #591

 Incumbent Kim Schrier WA 08 is #32 among vulnerable Democratic incumbents on Len’s List and tied for #22 on Daily Kos’s List.

Incumbent Mary Peltola AK AL is #35 among vulnerable Democratic incumbents on Len’s List and is #18 on Daily Kos’s List.

Incumbent Val Hoyle OR 04 is #36 among vulnerable Democratic incumbents on Len’s List.

There is One Very Big Senate race in the Northwest to pay attention to

 Incumbent Jon Tester of Montana. See Len’s Political Note #550. With Joe Manchin no longer running for reelection, many see Jon Tester as the most vulnerable Democratic incumbent.