Who is Mary Peltola, the first Alaska Native woman elected to Congress?

 Who is Mary Peltola, the first Alaska Native woman elected to Congress?

Who is Mary Peltola, the first Alaska Native woman elected to Congress?

According to her campaign website, Peltola worked as "a manager of community Development and Sustainability" at the Donlin Gold project in Southwest Alaska after leaving the legislature. She also served on the Bethel City Council for one term and worked as a state lobbyist. She has been the executive director of the Kuskokwim River Inter Tribal Fish Commission since 2017.


Peltola maintained contact with Alaska's political leaders, including Young, over the years. She told a local radio station that she last saw him in November at his Washington office. "I went to give him dry fish and visit with him and talk about the legislation, and I told him I have often considered running for his seat," she explained. She recalled how they both laughed.


Peltola has stated in her campaign that she supports a national law protecting abortion rights and some gun control measures, such as universal background checks. When asked if Trump was to blame for the Jan. 6 attack on the US Capitol, Peltola recently told the Anchorage Daily News, "I believe in our courts and judicial system." "I have no doubt that justice will be served once due process has been followed."



Peltola gave the paper a nuanced answer on whether transgender athletes should be allowed to compete in sports based on the gender they identify with: "My starting point is that sports should be fair for all students, and we must protect the rights of all students — especially those who are already subject to significant discrimination."


She also stated that the recent Russian aggression demonstrates the need for the United States to rebuild its military presence in Alaska. When it comes to natural resources, Peltola appears to be attempting to strike a balance between the need for preservation and the need for Native Alaskans and all residents in rural, underserved areas to have access to those resources.


She opposes development at Pebble Mine and supports the proposed 200-plus mile Ambler Road, but only if "local support, usage restrictions, and environmental standards" are met, according to the Anchorage Daily News.



In May, she tweeted that voting to cut teacher retirement benefits in 2005, based in part on "untrustworthy information from state actuaries," was "the biggest regret of my legislative career."


Peltola has a reputation for being unusually nice throughout her career and on the campaign trail. Alaska Public Radio described it as her "superpower" in June, citing a brief exchange that month at a debate where Peltola was seated next to Palin as one of many examples.


Despite the fact that their careers have diverged since their days as young mothers working in state politics, Peltola and Palin maintained a friendliness on the campaign trail.


Peltola was about to explain how, if elected, she would help fund the state's most important infrastructure projects during the debate when Palin, thinking it was her turn to speak, began answering.



Peltola smiled, lowered the microphone she was holding, and quietly signaled to the moderator that everything was fine. She even tapped Palin on the shoulder, encouraging her to keep going.


"See how courteous she is?" Palin burst out laughing. "This is how politics should work."


While one race concludes with a Peltola victory, another is currently underway. Peltola, Palin, and Begich have all made it to the November ballot in their bids for a full two-year term in Congress.

Peltola ran for and was elected to the state legislature again in 1998. She served in the legislature for ten years, the last few of which overlapped with Palin's tenure as governor.


Peltola was a member of the Bush Caucus in the legislature, a bipartisan group of lawmakers representing rural areas of the state. She earned a reputation for working across the aisle, focusing intently on natural resource issues, and winning over opponents through persistence and unwavering kindness.


Peltola had four children while in office and left the legislature in 2009, citing the strain on her growing family from her travel.


Peltola was instrumental in running a successful write-in campaign for Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R), who had lost a Republican primary to a tea party challenger, Joe Miller. Murkowski is "really following her own moral compass," Peltola later told the Christian Science Monitor. This is appealing to Alaskans. We like people who think for themselves."

Peltola was born in 1973, the same year Young was elected to the House, and grew up in rural areas of the state. Her father and Young were close, and the New York Times reported that she would accompany her father when he campaigned for Young.


She studied early childhood education at the University of Northern Colorado and worked as a herring and salmon technician for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game during the summers.


Peltola interned at the state legislature in 1996, and later that year ran for a seat to represent the Bethel region, a major hub in the state's west. "I felt like I failed forward, just losing by 56 votes," she later said on a local podcast called "Coffee and Quaq." "It's a good thing I didn't win the first time."


Peltola worked as a reporter after losing, sharpening her sense that parts of Alaska were underrepresented. "As rural people, we often have to interpret our news through the eyes of urban journalists," she said on the podcast.

The victory came on her 49th birthday, which she referred to as a "GOOD DAY" in a tweet shortly after the state elections division released preliminary results from the state's new ranked-choice voting system.


"It's a little overwhelming. And it's a wonderful sensation. "I'm grateful Alaskans have placed their trust in me," Peltola said in an interview with The Washington Post shortly after her victory at her campaign consultants' office, where she had to interrupt the conversation to take a call from Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska). "I'm going to work right away."


Peltola will serve the final four months of Rep. Don Young's (R) term, the longest-serving Republican in Congress, who died in March at the age of 88. She is also running for the full two-year term to replace Young in the November election.

Mary Peltola is a Democrat who campaigned with her father and his friend, the state's long-serving Republican congressman, as a child. She later assisted in the reelection of a Republican senator. And she's friends with Sarah Palin, the former governor of Alaska who popularized the combative, anti-establishment politics that propelled Donald Trump to the presidency.


"She is progressive, particularly socially," said Lindsay Kavanaugh, executive director of the Alaska Democratic Party. "She is an Alaska Democrat," and "she is probably a little more moderate than a Lower 48 Democrat."


In the Alaska House special election, Peltola defeats Palin.


Peltola won a special election for Alaska's lone U.S. House seat on Wednesday, defeating Palin and Nick Begich III (R), a business executive and well-known name in state politics. Peltola will be the state's first woman in the House, the first Native Alaskan — she is Yup'ik — and the first Democrat to hold the seat in a half-century when she is sworn in.

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