February 25, 2024
Peltola announces reelection bid, plans campaign stop in Juneau on Saturday

U.S. Rep. Mary Peltola, D-Alaska, dances with others during a campaign event Oct. 24, 2022, at Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall. Peltola, who announced Monday she is seeking a second full term, is scheduled to make a campaign stop in Juneau on Friday. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

This story has been corrected to note the Juneau meet-and-greet is Saturday, not Friday.

U.S. Rep. Mary Peltola announced Monday she is seeking a second full term as Alaska’s lone U.S. House member and the Democrat is planning a series of meet-and-greets during the week, including a stop in Juneau from 5-6:30 p.m. Saturday at the Crystal Saloon.

“My message is simple: Alaska has stood on the shoulders of giants like Ted Stevens, Don Young, and Frank Murkowski, and it is thanks to their legacies that we have gotten to where we are today,” Peltola said in a prepared statement.

“But now, we are on the verge of building for the future, and what we need to get there is a voice that is willing to work with anyone, regardless of party, to deliver for our state. Alaska only works when it works together. Whether it was securing the Willow project and the largest investment in a renewable energy grid in American history, placing a ban on Russian trawling, or fighting for women’s right to choose, we need a unified voice for us in Washington D.C.”

Befitting an incumbent expected to face a challenging sophomore campaign, a statement denouncing Peltola’s record was issued by the National Republican Congressional Committee shortly after her announcement.

“Mary Peltola is trying to pull a bait-and-switch pretending to be moderate when she’s really an extreme Democrat partisan,” Ben Petersen, an NRCC spokesperson, said in a prepared statement. “Vote after vote, Peltola has empowered Joe Biden and out-of-state liberals’ extreme anti-Alaska agenda. That’s why Alaskans will elect a strong Republican fighter for Alaska this November.”

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Peltola, one of the top targets of the NRCC as Republicans look to hold their slim majority in the House, is seen as a slight favorite against two announced Republican opponents by the political publication Roll Call, which as of Jan. 3 rates the race “Tilt Democratic.” That, however, is a narrowing from the previous “Lean Democratic” rating, based on Lt. Gov. Nancy Dahlstrom announcing in November she’s seeking Peltola’s seat.

“Dahlstrom’s entrance into the race gives Republicans a candidate who can appeal to the various wings of the state party,” Roll Call’s analysis states. “But Alaska’s unique top-four ranked choice voting system might still be Democratic Rep. Mary Peltola’s saving grace, with Republican tech entrepreneur Nick Begich III remaining in the race.”

Peltola defeated Begich and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin twice in 2022. The first was a special election in August to fill the remainder of Rep. Don Young’s term after the Republican died in March of that year after nearly 50 years in office. The second was for her first full two-year term that November. In both elections ranked choice voting — used for the first time in Alaska that year — was cited as a key factor in her wins.

Also cited as a major factor was Peltola, a former state lawmaker from Bethel who was relatively unknown until finishing among the top four in the special election open primary, conducted what political observers called a positive campaign compared to Begich and Palin who attacked each other extensively. Many residents voting for one of the Republican finalists as their first choice refused to rank the other Republican as their second preference.

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Peltola also gained international attention as the first Alaska Native elected to Congress, with a campaign slogan of “pro-fish, pro-family and pro-freedom.” Among the issues she’s highlighted and worked on most extensively are advocating for the approval of the Willow oil field project on the North Slope, stricter rules related to the accidental catch of salmon by the Bering Sea trawl fleet, and opposing the proposed merger of the parent companies of Safeway and Fred Meyer.

She has maintained the highest favorable rating of any statewide politician since being elected to Congress, according to tracking polls conducted by Alaska Survey Research. But the positive/negative ratio has narrowed somewhat as she accumulates a voting record — among the most moderate by Democrats, but with a high absentee rate — and taken stances such as an early endorsement of Biden’s reelection.

“Peltola, who flipped the seat in a 2022 special election, starts the race with high favorables,” the Roll Call analysis states. “But she will have to endure TV attacks from the GOP for the first time in her congressional career in a state former President Donald Trump is likely to win handily at the top of the ticket.”

The most recent campaign finance reports at the Federal Election Commission’s website — which only extend to Sept. 30 of last year — show Peltola with a sizable initial fundraising lead. She reports raising nearly $1.8 million, $1.4 million in expenditures and more than $1 million cash on hand (including funds from previous campaigns). Begich reports raising about $266,000, spending nearly $79,000 and nearly $230,000 cash on hand. There is no data for Dahlstrom, who was not a candidate as of the reporting date.

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• Contact Mark Sabbatini at [email protected] or (907) 957-2306.