Mary Peltola Becomes First Alaskan Native Elected to Congress

Mary Peltola Becomes First Alaskan Native Elected to Congress

History was just made in Alaska.

Democrat Mary Peltola, who defeated former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin in a special congressional election, will be the first Alaskan Native to serve as a lawmaker in Congress for the state of Alaska. She will also become the first woman ever to hold the seat.

Mary Peltola, who won the election on her 49th birthday, served in the Alaska statehouse for a decade. She is Yup'ik and grew up in rural Alaska. 


The race was to fill a vacancy left after the former officeholder, Don Young, died. Young, a Republican, held the seat for nearly five decades.

Mary Peltola was declared the winner by three percentage points.

Peltola Results

However, the seat will again be up for grabs at the midterm elections in November.

According to Alaska Public Media, Palin recently referred to Mary Peltola as a “sweetheart” but after Palin learned she lost the special election to Peltola, this was her reaction:


Palin, 58, lost the election despite outspending Peltola four-to-one and securing the endorsement of former President Donald Trump. Palin served as the 2008 vice-presidential running mate to the late Senator John McCain, who went on to become one of the most high-profile conservative critics of Trump.

The victory is significant for Peltola, but also for the American Indian / Alaska Native community at large. As of 2019, there were an estimated 5.7 million people who were classified as American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) alone or in combination with one or more other ethnicities. American Indians and Alaska Natives comprise 1.7 percent of the total U.S. population.

After the election results were announced, Mary Peltola addressed her Alaskan Native heritage.

I am Yup’ik. I’m very proud to be Yup’ik. But I’m a lot more than just my ethnicity. And I want to really share the values of our region, working together and working collaboratively and holding each other up. I want to hopefully, really bring those values to Washington, D.C.

She's excited to get to work, but also noted there's work ahead on the horizon, with midterms looming just three months away.

I’m very, very grateful to all of my family and friends and neighbors and a shout out to my Kwethluk relatives, and I’m just looking forward to continuing on the campaign trail. This is a victory for the short seat, but we all have the long seat in our sights and we’re looking at November and wanting to build on the momentum that we’ve gained, and just looking forward to continuing to reach out to Alaskans.


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