Democratic U.S. Rep. Mary Peltola, who won the August special election to fill out the remaining months of the late Rep. Don Young’s term, appears headed to a similar victory in the general election.
With 96% of precincts reporting, the tally as of Nov. 9 shows Peltola with a commanding lead (47.13%) over Republican challengers Sarah Palin (26.62%) and Nick Begich (24.27%). Since Peltola will likely finish with less than 50% of the vote, the contest appears headed to ranked-choice voting.
While the combined Republican vote (including both Palin and Begich) adds up to about 51%, a Democratic victor is a likely scenario.
If the current numbers hold, Begich would be eliminated in the third round (after Libertarian Chris Bye – who only had 1.74% of the vote), meaning the second-choice votes on all Begich ballots would be distributed to Palin and Peltola.
In August, two-thirds of Begich supporters listed Palin as their second choice, with one-third favoring Peltola. If that same scenario plays out again, Peltola will win, since Palin needs nearly all of Begich’s second-place votes in order to overcome Peltola’s lead.
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After the August special election, however, both Palin and Begich made concerted efforts to encourage their supporters to rank the other Republican second. Whether this strategy was successful remains to be seen.
The vote tallies for all candidates will change over the next 15 days as tens of thousands of absentee and early ballots are tallied and added to the final results, which will be announced on Nov. 23.
This is a developing story.