Mary Peltola defeats Sarah Palin

Democrat Mary Peltola, a former state representative, will be the first Alaska Native in Congress after she won a special election that included GOP candidates Nick Begich and former Gov. Sarah Palin, NBC News projects.

Peltola, who is the executive director of the Kuskokwim River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, served 10 years in the state Legislature and campaigned as “Alaska’s best shot at keeping an extremist from winning.”

“It is a GOOD DAY,” Peltola tweeted following the election results. “We’ve won tonight, but we’re still going to have to hold this seat in November.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., lauded Peltola for “making history as the first Alaska Native ever elected to the Congress.”

“Her valuable and unifying perspective, deep experience in public service and commitment to working families will strengthen the work of our Caucus and the Congress,” Pelosi said in a statement.

Peltola finished fourth in a crowded nonpartisan primary in June, when 48 candidates battled to secure one of the four spots on the Aug. 16 special election ballot. But heading into Wednesday’s final tabulation, Peltola was leading the pack.

The special election was the state's first test of ranked-choice voting, which was implemented after a 2020 ballot measure. The same system will be used in November.

With 93% of votes counted in the ranked-choice results Wednesday night, Peltola had 51.5% of the vote to Palin's 48.5%.

Voters cast their ballots more than two weeks ago to determine who will serve out the final four months of Rep. Don Young's term after he died in March at age 88. The longtime GOP lawmaker represented Alaska for almost 50 years in Congress.