Mary Peltola

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Mary Peltola
Akalleq
Official portrait, 2022
Co-Chair of the Blue Dog Coalition
Assumed office
May 24, 2023
Preceded byJim Costa
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Alaska's at-large district
Assumed office
September 13, 2022
Preceded byDon Young
Member of the Alaska House of Representatives
In office
January 19, 1999 – January 19, 2009
Preceded byIvan Ivan
Succeeded byBob Herron
Constituency
  • 38th district (2003–2009)
  • 39th district (1999–2003)
Personal details
Born
Mary Sattler

(1973-08-31) August 31, 1973 (age 50)
Anchorage, Alaska, U.S.
CitizenshipUnited States
Orutsararmiut Native Council
Political partyDemocratic
Spouses
Jonathan Kapsner
(divorced)
Joe Nelson
(divorced)
(died 2023)
Children7[a]
WebsiteHouse website

Mary Sattler Peltola[1][b] (born August 31, 1973) is an American politician and former tribal judge serving as the U.S. representative from Alaska's at-large congressional district since September 2022. A member of the Democratic Party, she previously served as a judge on the Orutsararmiut Native Council's tribal court, executive director of the Kuskokwim River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, Bethel city councilor and member of the Alaska House of Representatives.

A member of the Democratic Party, Peltola defeated former governor Sarah Palin and Alaska Policy Forum board member Nick Begich in an upset in the August 2022 special election to succeed Don Young, who died in March that year.[4] In doing so, she became the first Alaska Native member of Congress and the only Russian Orthodox,[5] as well as the first woman ever to represent Alaska in the House, the first person to have been born in Alaska to serve in the House, and first Democrat since Nick Begich Sr. in 1972. She was reelected to a full term in the regularly scheduled election in November 2022.[6] As of 2023, Peltola is the only Democrat holding statewide office in Alaska.

Early life and education[edit]

Peltola is Yup'ik from Western Alaska. She was born in Anchorage, Alaska, on August 31, 1973.[7][4] Her Yup'ik name is Akalleq (transl. the one who rolled).[8][9] Peltola's father, Ward Sattler, a German-American from Nebraska, moved to Alaska to work as a pilot and teacher.[10][11] Her mother, Elizabeth "LizAnn" Piicigaq Williams, is Yup'ik from Kwethluk.[12] Peltola was raised in the communities of Kwethluk, Tuntutuliak, Platinum, and Bethel.[13] As a child, she traveled with her father around Alaska as he campaigned for Congressman Don Young.[4] As a college student, she worked as a herring and salmon technician for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.[4] Peltola studied elementary education at the University of Northern Colorado (1991 to 1993) and later took courses at the University of Alaska Fairbanks (1994 to 1995), University of Alaska Southeast (1995 to 1997), and University of Alaska Anchorage (1997 to 1998).[10]

In 1995, Peltola won the Miss National Congress of American Indians pageant. In the competition, she performed two Yup'ik dances and wore traditional clothing including a squirrel skin parka, wolf hair headdress, and mukluks.[14]

Early career[edit]

In 1996, Peltola was an Alaska Legislature intern. Later that year, she ran for a Bethel region seat, losing to incumbent Ivan Ivan by 56 votes.[4] Peltola worked as the campaign manager for Ivan's challenger, Independent candidate Willie Kasayulie, in the general election.[15]

Peltola later worked as a reporter.[4]

Alaska House of Representatives (1999–2009)[edit]

In 1998, Peltola was elected to the Alaska House of Representatives,[4] after a successful rematch against Ivan in the Democratic primary.[16] She appeared on the ballot under her maiden name, though she was married to Jonathan Kapsner at the time.[17] She was elected and reelected mostly without or with only minimal opposition, with Ivan's return to challenge her in the 2002 primary the closest contest she faced.[18]

In the House, Peltola served on various standing committees, including Finance, Resources and Health and Social Services.[citation needed] She helped to rebuild the Bush Caucus, a bipartisan group of representatives and senators who represent rural and off-road communities in Alaska.[4][19]

In 2004, Peltola criticized No Child Left Behind Act rules which would impede the continuation of the practice of administering tests in some western Alaskan schools in the native Yupik language.[20]

Peltola authored a law which allowed teachers to be given exemption from jury duty if they work at schools which had failed to meet adequate annual progress. This was signed into law by governor Frank Murkowski in July 2004.[21]

Local offices (2009–2022)[edit]

Peltola testifying before the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs in 2018

Peltola worked as manager of community development and sustainability for the Donlin Creek Mine from 2008 to 2014. In 2010, after incumbent Republican U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski lost her party's primary, Peltola helped run her successful write-in campaign.[4] Peltola was elected to the Bethel City Council in 2011, and served until her term ended in 2013. She was a lobbyist in Alaska from 2015 to 2017.[22] After 2016, Peltola served as executive director of the Kuskokwim River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission.[23][4] From 2020 to 2021, she served as a judge on the Orutsararmiut Native Council's tribal court.[24][25]

U.S. House of Representatives (2022–present)[edit]

Peltola at a Planned Parenthood rally in July 2022

Elections[edit]

Peltola during the 117th Congress

2022 special[edit]

Peltola was one of the three candidates to progress to the general election of the 50 who ran in 2022 Alaska's at-large congressional district special election primary to succeed Don Young, and thereby become the fifth representative from Alaska in the U.S. House since statehood.[26] She advanced to the runoff in fourth place, the only Democrat to do so. Al Gross, an independent in third place in the primary, dropped out of the ranked choice runoff, leaving two Republicans remaining, former governor Sarah Palin and Nick Begich III.[27] Gross endorsed Peltola after dropping out of the race.[25] Three Alaska voters filed a losing suit to challenge the decision not to allow Republican Tara Sweeney, the fifth placer in the primary, to advance to the runoff.[28] Sweeney subsequently withdrew her candidacy.[29] Peltola defeated Palin and Begich in the ranked-choice runoff tabulation.

2022[edit]

Peltola celebrating her 2022 re-election

Peltola sought a full term in the 2022 general election.[30] She advanced to the general election in first place, receiving 36.8% of the votes in the primary.[31] Alaska Republican Lisa Murkowski, running for her fourth term in the U.S. Senate, told Alaska Federation of Natives Convention delegates that she intended to vote for Peltola as her top choice in the 2022 election.[32] Murkowski said: "I do not toe the party line just because party leaders have asked... My first obligation is to the people of the state of Alaska."[32]

Ahead of the November 2022 election, Peltola announced endorsements from Don Young's daughters, Joni Nelson and Dawn Vallely, in addition to Young's former communications director Zack Brown.[33] Various other friends and former staff of Young endorsed Peltola in a formal endorsement letter.[34] Peltola, who received just under 49% of the vote in initial balloting, was declared the winner on November 23, defeating Palin again with 55% of the ranked-choice vote, after those votes cast for her as the second-place choice on ballots of the eliminated third-place candidate, Nick Begich III, were added to her total.[35]

Tenure[edit]

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (left) swears in Peltola as her husband, Gene (center), looks on

Peltola was sworn in as Alaska's U.S. representative on September 13, 2022.[36] Upon her swearing in, Congress had an Alaska Native (Peltola), Native Americans (Sharice Davids, Yvette Herrell, Markwayne Mullin, and Tom Cole), and a Native Hawaiian (Kai Kahele) serving simultaneously for the first time ever.[37] She is the fourth Native woman elected to Congress, after Davids, Herrell, and Deb Haaland.

On September 29, 2022, Peltola passed her first bill through the House. The bill would create an Office of Food Security in the Department of Veterans Affairs. Peltola's bill passed the House in a 376–49 vote.[38]

During the 2022 United States railroad labor dispute, Peltola was one of eight House Democrats to vote against a bill that would impose a new contract on railroad workers despite several rail unions voting against it. She said she could not support a contract that did not include paid sick days.[39][40]

Peltola supports allowing ConocoPhillips to drill for oil in the so-called Willow project, and urged the White House and the Interior Department to approve the project, which they did.[41][42]

In February 2023, Peltola announced that she had chosen Josh Revak, a former Republican state senator who ran against her in the 2022 special election, to run her Alaska office. Peltola's congressional staffers include Republicans. Her chief of staff, Alex Ortiz, was chief of staff to her predecessor Don Young.[43] In April 2023, Ortiz left her congressional office to take a position with her campaign in Southeast Alaska.[44]

Political positions[edit]

COVID-19 policy[edit]

On January 31, 2023, Peltola voted against the Freedom for Health Care Workers Act, a bill to lift COVID-19 vaccine mandates for healthcare workers.[45]

On February 1, 2023, Peltola voted against a resolution to end the COVID-19 national emergency.[46][47]

Environment[edit]

Peltola is a supporter of the Willow Project and increased oil development within the National Petroleum Reserve–Alaska.[48]

Fisheries[edit]

Peltola focused on fisheries in her election campaigns.[49] She supports reforming the Magnuson–Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, to better protect fisheries and marine ecosystems. She believes that the act's focus on "optimum yield" has privileged economic considerations over environmental ones, and supports amending the act to prioritize the environment.[50]

Gun rights[edit]

On June 13, 2023, Peltola, along with one other Democrat, Jared Golden of Maine, voted with Republicans for H.J. Res. 44, a bill which attempted to repeal the ATF's new regulations regarding pistol braces.[51]

Immigration[edit]

On February 9, 2023, Peltola voted against a resolution condemning the Local Resident Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2022, the District of Columbia's plan to allow non-citizens to vote in local elections.[52][53]

Syria[edit]

In 2023, Peltola voted against H.Con.Res. 21, which directed President Joe Biden to remove U.S. troops from Syria within 180 days.[54][55]

LGBT rights[edit]

On December 8, 2022, Peltola voted in favor of the Respect for Marriage Act which repealed the Defense of Marriage Act and mandated federal recognition of same-sex and interracial marriage.[56] On April 20, 2023, Peltola voted against the Protection of Women and Girls in Sports Act, which would have required individuals participating in competitive sports to compete in the category associated with their assigned sex rather than gender identity, calling the bill "bullying". Referring to the bill's focus on the transgender community, Peltola stated, "I don't know why on Earth as adults and national leaders, we'd be piling on and targeting them and trying to make their lives even harder."[57]

Committee assignments[edit]

For the 118th Congress:[58]

Caucus memberships[edit]

Personal life[edit]

Peltola is the first U.S. Representative from Alaska to be born in the state. She now resides in Bethel. An Alaska Native, Peltola is a tribal member of the Orutsararmiut Native Council.[12] She is a member of the Orthodox Church in America.[5]

Family[edit]

She has four biological children and three stepchildren.[60][61]

Her third husband, Eugene "Buzzy" Peltola Jr., served as Alaska director for the Bureau of Indian Affairs.[13][60][62] He died on the evening of September 13, 2023, while awaiting rescue following the crashing of a plane he had been flying.[63][64]

Electoral history[edit]

Alaska House of Representatives, District 39, Democratic primary results, 1996[65]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Ivan Ivan 1,228 39.6
Democratic Mary K. Sattler 1,172 37.8
Western Alaska Independent Democrat Willie Kasayulie 701 22.6
Total votes 3,101 100
Alaska House of Representatives, District 39, Democratic primary results, 1998[66]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Mary Sattler 1,667 53.41
Democratic Ivan Ivan (incumbent) 1,233 39.51
Western Alaska Independent Dario Notti 221 7.08
Total votes 3,121 100
Alaska House of Representatives, District 39, election results, 1998[67]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Mary Sattler 3,287 72.18
Western Alaska Independent Dario Notti 1,210 26.57
Write-in 57 1.25
Total votes 4,554 100
Alaska House of Representatives, District 39, Democratic primary results, 2000[68]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Mary Kapsner (incumbent) 1,201 100
Total votes 1,201 100
Alaska House of Representatives, District 39, election results, 2000[69]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Mary Kapsner (incumbent) 4,321 97.5
Write-ins 111 2.5
Total votes 4,432 100
Alaska House of Representatives, District 38, Democratic primary results, 2002[70]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Mary Kapsner (incumbent) 918 64.51
Democratic Ivan Ivan 505 35.49
Total votes 1,423 100%
Alaska House of Representatives, District 38, election results, 2002[71]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Mary Kapsner (incumbent) 3,419 97.28
Write-ins 93 2.72
Total votes 3,419 100
Alaska House of Representatives, District 38, Democratic primary results, 2004[72]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Mary Kapsner (incumbent) 1,538 100
Total votes 1,538 100
Alaska House of Representatives, District 38, election results, 2004[73]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Mary Kapsner (incumbent) 3,935 97.84
Write-ins 87 2.16
Total votes 3,935 100
Alaska House of Representatives, District 38, Democratic primary results, 2006[74]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Mary Sattler Kapsner (incumbent) 1,451 100
Total votes 1,451 100
Alaska House of Representatives, District 38, election results, 2006[75]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Mary Sattler Kapsner (incumbent) 3,553 97.40
Write-ins 95 2.60
Total votes 3,648 100
2011 Bethel City Council election[76]
Candidate Votes %
Joseph A. Klejka 504 14.35
Mary Sattler 441 12.55
Richard D. Robb 436 12.41
Gene Peltola Jr. 434 12.35
Kent Harding 419 11.93
Mark Springer 310 8.82
Eric G. Whitney 283 8.06
Eric Middlebrook 277 7.88
Sharon D. Sigmon 273 7.77
Write-in 136 3.87

Note: election was to fill four seats with 2-year terms and two seats with 1-year terms. Candidates were given the choice of which to fill on the basis of their vote-count, with the highest vote-getters being given first-preference to decide which length of a term they wanted to fill. Mary Sattler (Mary Peltola), Richard D. Robb, Gene Peltola Jr., and Mark Springer filled two-year terms while Joseph A. Klejka and Kent Harding filled one-year terms.

2022 Alaska's at-large congressional district special election[77][78]
Party Candidate Round 1 Round 2
Votes % Transfer Votes %
Democratic Mary Peltola 74,817 39.66% +15,467 91,266 51.48%
Republican Sarah Palin 58,339 30.92% +27,053 86,026 48.52%
Republican Nick Begich 52,536 27.85% -52,536 Eliminated
Write-in 2,974 1.58% -2,974 Eliminated
Total votes 188,666 100.00% 177,423 94.04%
Inactive ballots 0 0.00% +11,243 11,243 5.96%
Democratic gain from Republican
2022 Alaska's at-large congressional district election[79]
Party Candidate Round 1 Round 2 Round 3
Votes % Transfer Votes % Transfer Votes %
Democratic Mary Peltola (incumbent) 128,329 48.68% +1,038 129,433 49.20% +7,460 136,893 54.94%
Republican Sarah Palin 67,732 25.74% +1,064 69,242 26.32% +43,013 112,255 45.06%
Republican Nick Begich III 61,431 23.34% +1,988 64,392 24.48% -64,392 Eliminated
Libertarian Chris Bye 4,560 1.73% -4,560 Eliminated
Write-in 1,096 0.42% -1,096 Eliminated
Total votes 263,148 100.00% 263,067 100.00% 249,148 100.00%
Inactive ballots 2,193 0.83% +906 3,097 1.16% +14,765 17,016 5.55%
Democratic hold

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Includes three stepchildren
  2. ^ /pɛlˈtlə/ pel-TOH-lə; née Sattler; Yup'ik: Akalleq; formerly Nelson[2] and Kapsner[3]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Member Profile: Mary Sattler Peltola". Clerk of the United States House of Representatives. Archived from the original on November 12, 2022. Retrieved November 18, 2022.
  2. ^ "Mary Nelson 25th–25th Legislature (2007–2008)". www.akleg.gov. Archived from the original on January 6, 2023. Retrieved April 16, 2023.
  3. ^ "Mary Kapsner 21st–24th Legislature (1999–2006)". www.akleg.gov. Archived from the original on January 6, 2023. Retrieved April 16, 2023.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Paybarah, Azi (August 31, 2022). "Who is Mary Peltola, the first Alaska Native in Congress?". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on September 2, 2022. Retrieved September 1, 2022.
  5. ^ a b Brodey, Sam (October 21, 2022). "How a Democrat Won a State With Just 12% Dem Voters". The Daily Beast. Archived from the original on November 2, 2022. Retrieved October 21, 2022.
  6. ^ Shepard, Steven (November 23, 2022). "Murkowski, Peltola win in Alaska". POLITICO. Archived from the original on November 25, 2022. Retrieved November 25, 2022.
  7. ^ "Mary Sattler Kapsner". The Alaska State Legislature. Archived from the original on August 10, 2022. Retrieved August 31, 2022.
  8. ^ Samuels, Iris (August 8, 2022). "For two candidates, Alaska's U.S. House race is an opportunity to make history". Anchorage Daily News. Retrieved August 27, 2023.
  9. ^ House Natural Resources Subcommittee for Water, Oceans, And Wildlife (2021). Written Testimony of Mary Sattler Peltola (PDF). Alaska State Legislature. p. 1. Archived (PDF) from the original on July 25, 2022. Retrieved July 31, 2022.
  10. ^ a b "Representative Nelson". August 8, 2007. Archived from the original on August 8, 2007. Retrieved April 4, 2022.
  11. ^ "Alaska Rep-Elect After Beating Sarah Palin: 'No American Is My Enemy'". MSNBC. September 12, 2022. Archived from the original on November 26, 2022. Retrieved November 25, 2022 – via youtube.com.
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  13. ^ a b Peltola, Mary; Van Valin, Scott; Kampnich, Michael (May 14, 2021). "Op-Ed: Fisheries managers should reverse course on censoring public comments". Anchorage Daily News. Archived from the original on September 2, 2022. Retrieved September 1, 2022.
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  30. ^ Samuels, Iris (August 31, 2022). "Democrat Mary Peltola wins special U.S. House election, will be first Alaska Native elected to Congress". Anchorage Daily News. Archived from the original on September 1, 2022. Retrieved August 31, 2022.
  31. ^ "Live Alaska House Election Results 2022". NBC News. Archived from the original on September 1, 2022. Retrieved September 2, 2022.
  32. ^ a b Hughes, Zachariah (October 21, 2022). "At AFN, Murkowski says she'll vote for longtime friend and Democrat Mary Peltola for U.S. House". Anchorage Daily News. Archived from the original on November 2, 2022. Retrieved October 24, 2022.
  33. ^ Schonfeld, Zach (October 27, 2022). "Peltola endorsed by late GOP Rep. Young's daughters, former staffer". The Hill. Archived from the original on October 30, 2022. Retrieved October 30, 2022.
  34. ^ Ferguson, Jack; Brown, Zack; Day, Pamela; Anderson, Mike “Keawe”; Desrochers, Nicole; Harrigan, Linda; Croft, Holly; Kenny, Meredith; Williams, Christine; Schubert, Gail; Newell-Kinsman, Martha. "We're former staff members and friends of Don Young. We support Mary Peltola for U.S. House". Anchorage Daily News (opinion). Archived from the original on October 30, 2022. Retrieved October 30, 2022.
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  36. ^ Chen, Shawna (September 13, 2022). "Mary Peltola sworn in as first Alaska Native Congress member in historic moment". Axios. Archived from the original on September 13, 2022. Retrieved September 13, 2022.
  37. ^ Diaz, Jaclyn (September 20, 2022). "U.S. Congress reaches a milestone in Indigenous representation". NPR. Archived from the original on September 26, 2022. Retrieved October 5, 2022.
  38. ^ Ruskin, Liz (September 29, 2022). "Alaska congresswoman's first bill passes House". Alaska Public Media. Archived from the original on October 5, 2022. Retrieved October 5, 2022.
  39. ^ Ruskin, Liz (November 30, 2022). "Peltola says it's not right to deny sick leave for rail workers". Archived from the original on December 2, 2022. Retrieved April 16, 2023.
  40. ^ "Alaska Democrat Mary Peltola to vote against Joe Biden's rail strike proposal, details inside". The Economic Times. November 30, 2022. Archived from the original on December 2, 2022. Retrieved December 2, 2022.
  41. ^ Nilsen, Ella (February 1, 2023). "Biden administration takes another step toward advancing a controversial oil drilling project in Alaska". Archived from the original on February 5, 2023. Retrieved February 5, 2023.
  42. ^ Dumain, Emma (March 14, 2023). "How Murkowski helped move Biden on Willow". E&E News. Archived from the original on March 14, 2023. Retrieved March 14, 2023.
  43. ^ Ruskin, Liz (February 2, 2023). "Congresswoman Peltola hires Josh Revak, a Republican former rival, to run her Alaska office". Archived from the original on February 13, 2023. Retrieved February 13, 2023.
  44. ^ Rep. Peltola’s party-bending chief of staff departs, Alaska Public Media, Liz Ruskin, April 25, 2023. Retrieved April 26, 2023.
  45. ^ "House Vote 98 - On Passage". January 31, 2023. Archived from the original on February 21, 2023.
  46. ^ "House passes resolution to end COVID-19 national emergency". February 2023. Archived from the original on February 21, 2023. Retrieved February 21, 2023.
  47. ^ "On Passage - H.J.RES.7: Relating to a national emergency declared by". August 12, 2015. Archived from the original on February 21, 2023. Retrieved February 21, 2023.
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  57. ^ "Alaska Rep. Peltola calls U.S. House transgender sports ban 'bullying' and 'federal overreach'". Anchorage Daily News.
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External links[edit]

Alaska House of Representatives
Preceded by Member of the Alaska House of Representatives from the 39th district
1999–2003
Succeeded by
Preceded by Member of the Alaska House of Representatives from the 38th district
2003–2009
Succeeded by
Honorary titles
Preceded by Youngest Member of the Alaska House of Representatives
1999–2007
Succeeded by
U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by Member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Alaska's at-large congressional district
2022–present
Incumbent
Party political offices
Preceded by Chair of the Blue Dog Coalition for Policy
2023–present
Served alongside: Jared Golden (Administration), Marie Pérez (Communications)
Incumbent
U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by United States representatives by seniority
353rd
Succeeded by