Peltola retains her lead in the U.S. House race, now what happens to the second place finisher?
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Democrat U.S. House Rep. Mary Peltola maintained her lead Wednesday afternoon, pulling slightly ahead after first-choice votes were tallied overnight and throughout the day.
Peltola holds a large lead in the race with more than 44,000 votes more than the current second-place candidate — former Gov. Sarah Palin — who was endorsed by former President Donald Trump.
Numbers released Wednesday afternoon show Peltola with 101,236 votes. Palin now has 57,005 and Nick Begich received 51,896 according to the 2:38 p.m. update from the Division of Elections.
Libertarian Chris Bye from Fairbanks held 2% of the vote with 3,716.
Wednesday morning the Peltola campaign said the candidate was home feeling sick, but at her election party, the night before, she said she was feeling ‘optimistic.’
“I like to be optimistic,” Peltola said. “And it’s just so fun being with supporters in downtown Anchorage and being part of the revelry.”
Emails and texts to the Palin and Begich campaigns were not returned Wednesday.
“We’ve had a great campaign, we have, and being able to connect to so many Alaskans who understand the status quo has got to go,” Palin said.
On election night Begich had said he was remaining confident.
“The numbers have been tightening as the results have come in,” Begich said. “We’re pretty excited about the opportunity to represent Alaska.”
But is that possible at this point?
The second-ranked candidate would need 78.8% of available second-choice votes (as of the most recent totals), to win, which is why a “rank the red” campaign was being strongly pushed in the final weeks leading up to the election.
“Unfortunately Sarah Palin was late to the party,” Begich said. “She wasn’t willing to make that statement until just recently.”
Tuesday evening Palin told reporters that she had ranked Begich second.
“We certainly hope that Nick Begich followed through on the whole ‘rank the red’ theme because I admit, I had to swallow my pride and say, dah, we have to rank the red. We have to ask others to support the other Republicans even though it kind of goes against any competitive bone anybody would have in their body,” Palin said.
Jason Grenn with Alaskans for Better Elections said over the next few weeks voters should watch how the second-place numbers change.
“We’ve seen in a number of races, including the U.S. House race, that the number two choice on many people’s ballots is going to be what determines the winner,” Grenn said.
Grenn says that part of the appeal of this new voting system is that it forces candidates to seek out voters outside of their base. The benefit to voters, he says, is that it offers them more choices if their first candidate doesn’t win.
“If that person ends up not winning, they (voters) have a backup choice,” Grenn said. “Someone who they’d still like to see serve them in Juneau or Washington D.C. It’s up to the voter to look at the ballot and go ‘who on that list really appeals to my values.’”
The final results won’t be known until Nov. 23 — the day before Thanksgiving.
Any race with a candidate who leads with less than 50% of the vote, plus one, will utilize the “instant runoff” format, or ranked-choice voting.
On that day, election officials will eliminate the last-place candidate and distribute all their second-place votes to the remaining candidates until the leader attains the crucial mark.
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