Peltola keeps 4th place in latest US House ballot count

a woman sits on a bench outside
Democratic U.S. House candidate Mary Peltola at a campaign event in Anchorage. (Liz Ruskin/Alaska Public Media)

Democrat Mary Peltola rose slightly in Friday’s updated ballot count in Alaska’s special U.S. House primary. She’s at 9.4%, anchored into fourth place and a spot on the special general ballot in August.

The Associated Press has now called the race for all four of the top finishers — Republicans Sarah Palin and Nick Begich III, nonpartisan Al Gross and Peltola.

“I’m very happy. I’m very, very grateful,” Peltola said. “And every time there’s a ballot count I’m just happier and happier.”

She felt COVID-19 symptoms come on just as the first election results dropped on Saturday night. She said she has now recovered from a mild case and is masking for five days, as recommended by health authorities.

The candidate standings changed slightly with 20,000 more mailed ballots counted Friday. Most of them arrived on or after the Saturday’s postmark deadline.

Republican Sarah Palin retains a major lead but has dipped just below 28%. That’s down about two points from Saturday.

The ballots have been counted roughly in chronological order of when the state receives them, so pollster Ivan Moore says it’s not surprising that Palin has ticked down a little.

“Her kind of ardent supporters are going to get the ballot in the mail straightaway,” he said. “As soon as they receive it, they’ll send it back.”

Moore said Democrats and progressives did the opposite and held onto their ballots for weeks.

“Because they were all wringing their hands, wondering who to vote for. You know, agonizing over the choice between Peltola or Constant or whoever else — Santa Claus even, or Al Gross,” Moore said. “They were all leaving it to the end.”

Begich remains at 19% and Gross has nearly 13% of the vote.

The Division of Elections is continuing to receive and count mailed ballots through Tuesday.

The Associated Press estimates that more than 90% of the ballots are counted already.

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Liz Ruskin is the Washington, D.C., correspondent for Alaska Public Media. She reports from the U.S. Capitol and from Anchorage. Reach her at lruskin@alaskapublic.org.