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Who is Mary Peltola? The Democrat defeated Sarah Palin in Alaska's special election

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 9/1/2022 Merdie Nzanga, USA TODAY
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Mary Peltola won Alaska's special congressional election Wednesday and will finish the remainder term of the late Rep. Don Young until January.

Peltola will be the first Alaska native to serve in Congress. Young had held the seat for nearly 50 years.

Peltola, former Gov. Sarah Palin and Nick Begich ran both in a special election to fill out the rest of Young's term and will run in the general election for a new term. Wednesday's results will be confirmed by the state elections board in the coming days.

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Peltola wins: Democrat Mary Peltola wins Alaska Congress seat, defeating former GOP Gov. Sarah Palin

U.S. House candidate Democrat Mary Peltola celebrates after results are announced for the special election in which she won the race for Alaska's lone seat in the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2022, in Anchorage, Alaska. © Marc Lester, AP U.S. House candidate Democrat Mary Peltola celebrates after results are announced for the special election in which she won the race for Alaska's lone seat in the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2022, in Anchorage, Alaska.

Here is what to know about Peltola. 

Who is Mary Peltola?

Mary Sattler Peltola, a Yup'ik, was born in Anchorage, Alaska.

Peltola, 49, went to the University of Northern Colorado and the University of Alaska. She established the lobbying firm Sattler Strategies. 

She served as the executive director of the Kuskokwim River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, and a councilwoman in Bethel, a small city in Alaska, from 2011-2013.

Peltola's political beliefs

 Peltola is pro-abortion rights and said she believes the government should not interfere when it comes to abortion.

"My opinion is that the way people build their family is entirely up to them, and the government shouldn't have any say in that," Peltola told USA TODAY in a phone interview.

While she said that guns are part of Alaskan culture, she said she wants commonsense actions to be taken on guns. Peltola wants basic background checks, and believes increasing the age limit to buy guns is "a first good step."

Related: Sarah Palin seeks to fill 'big shoes' of late US Rep. Don Young, announces run for Congress in Alaska

Alaska special election results

Ranked choice tabulations took place Wednesday after no candidate won more than 50% of the first choice votes, with state elections officials live-streaming the event. Peltola was in the lead heading into the tabulations, followed by Palin and then Begich.

While won the special election, the three candidates will face each other again in November for a full term. 

In an interview with USA TODAY, Peltola said she is "very optimistic" about the election. Her campaign, she said, has made the effort to talk to every Alaskan regardless of party affiliation. 

Relationship with Palin and Begich

Peltola said she respects both of her opponents and said that the campaigns have been civil. Peltola described her relationship with Palin as "very well."

The two women worked together in the state legislature and were both pregnant at the same time, which gave them the opportunity to bond.

She also said she respects Beigch but believes she is the best candidate to represent Alaska, and has "the most experience."

Contributing: The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Who is Mary Peltola? The Democrat defeated Sarah Palin in Alaska's special election

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