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Democrat Mary Peltola, Yup’ik, has been elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, making history as the first Alaska Native elected to Congress. She is also the first woman to hold Alaska’s only U.S. House seat.

It was a special birthday for Peltola, who turned 49 on Wednesday.

Peltola won a special election to fill the remaining months of the late Congress member Don Young’s term of office. Young held the seat for nearly 49 years. Peltola’s win came after businessman Nick Begich was eliminated as the 3rd place finisher and the ballots for him went to voters’ second choices.

“I’m honored and humbled by the support I have received from across Alaska,” Peltola said in a statement. “I look forward to continuing Don Young’s legacy of bipartisanship, serving all Alaskans and building support for Alaska’s interests in DC.”

A regular election to fill the next 2-year term comes in November.

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Her win is the first test of ranked choice voting, a system said to favor less polarized candidates. Pollsters show Sarah Palin had strong support among Republicans but also high negatives for quitting her job as governor, running for vice president, then taking the path of celebrity. She was endorsed by former President Donald Trump in this race.

Unofficially, Peltola received 91,206 votes to Palin’s 85,587, according to the Alaska Division of Elections. Peltola is a former state lawmaker and former tribal fisheries manager.

There will now be six Indigenous voting members of Congress. Peltola joins Reps. Tom Cole, Chickasaw, Markwayne Mullin, Cherokee, Sharice Davids, Ho-Chunk, Kai Kahele, Native Hawaiian and Yvette Herrell, Cherokee.

Peltola now has a leg up to win the full U.S. House term of office that starts in January. In the primary of that contest, Peltola won 36.81 percent; Palin took 30.21 percent and businessman Begich won 26.18 percent of the votes cast. The fourth spot was won by former Interior assistant secretary Tara Sweeney, Inupiaq, with 3.75 percent of the vote. She withdrew from the race, however, so Libertarian and fishing guide Chris Bye will be in the fourth slot. He took .62 percent of the vote.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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