Politics

Weeks after the election, Peltola had more than $1 million left in her campaign account

Mary Peltola

Three weeks after the November election, U.S. Rep. Mary Peltola had more than $1.1 million in her campaign account, according to campaign finance reports filed this week. While some of that money has gone toward paying off debts from her U.S. House campaign, anything remaining could give her an advantage if she seeks reelection in 2024.

Peltola, a Democratic former state lawmaker from Bethel, rose from relative obscurity when she announced her run for Alaska’s lone U.S. House seat in April. She won a September special election to carry out the rest of the late Don Young’s term, with the least amount of money in her campaign account compared to her opponents — former Gov. Sarah Palin and businessman Nick Begich, both Republicans.

After that special election victory, Peltola went from being the least-funded candidate in the race to having a cash advantage over her opponents to the tune of millions. In addition to the nearly $7 million raised by her own campaign, she had help from political action committees spending millions of dollars to support her bid. She defeated Palin, Begich and Libertarian Chris Bye to win the general election in November.

More than $1.8 million of her total haul came in the final weeks of the campaign, and her campaign manager Anton McParland said she continued to raise funds after the election. He said Peltola has not made plans for a 2024 run, but in launching her campaign, Peltola, 49, emphasized that she was interested in continuing the tradition of longevity in Alaska’s U.S. House seat; Young had held the seat for 49 years before he died in March.

McParland said Friday that a large sum of the money remaining in Peltola’s campaign account as of Nov. 28 had already been spent in the days since then covering remaining bills from the campaign, leaving around $730,000.

“And we still have a fair portion of money that we have to pay out to various vendors, and so that will continue coming down,” McParland said.

Still, given Peltola’s ongoing fundraising, she could have sizable seed money looking to the next election cycle. Incumbents have a significant advantage when running for reelection in the U.S. House. In recent election years, more than 90% of incumbents seeking reelection to the U.S. House have won their races.

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“It’s difficult to not consider the next election, although I assure you that right now most of us are just desperately trying to get through closing up the campaign and getting things set up in D.C. and enjoying a little bit of a reprieve from the stress,” McParland said.

Some of the unused campaign funds were set aside intentionally, McParland said. The campaign reserved some funds for the possibility that results would be challenged in court. Palin spent much of her campaign railing against Alaska’s new ranked choice voting system, though she did not challenge the results.

“We were also cognizant of the fact that there were statements being made calling into question the election system — ranked choice voting — and wanted to be prepared to be able to defend the campaign, defend the win, in court if it came to that. I think we’re all greatly relieved it didn’t come to that,” McParland said. “But nonetheless, it felt like a virtuous consideration to be making, so that we weren’t caught unprepared to defend the election results.”

The reports filed this week show that Peltola’s Republican opponents raised far less than she did in the final weeks.

Begich raised a total of $1.6 million over the course of his campaign, which he launched months before his opponents entered the race. That includes $650,000 in a loan he made to his campaign from his own personal wealth. Begich paid off $200,000 of that loan amount after the election. But he still has a $450,000 debt, according to a report filed with the Federal Election Commission that covers account activity through Nov. 28. His campaign account had under $90,000 at the time.

Palin had raised nearly $2 million since launching her campaign in April. She had just under $60,000 left in her campaign account at of the end of November.

Neither Begich nor Palin have commented publicly on whether they will run for office again. Begich said in an interview this week that he intended to remain involved in Alaska politics but had not yet decided what that would include.

Peltola’s $1.1 million in remaining campaign funds eclipses the amount U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski had left in her campaign account on Nov. 28 — just under $880,000.

Murkowski, the moderate Republican incumbent who defeated Trump-backed Republican Kelly Tshibaka, had raised over $10 million over the course of her campaign.

Tshibaka, who lost her bid for Senate, raised nearly $6 million over the course of her campaign, including over $1.1 million in the three weeks immediately before and after her election.

In the days following the election, Tshibaka said in interviews for right-wing media outlets that she expected possible lawsuits and recounts in her race — none of which materialized — and asked her supporters to continue donating to her campaign even after the election.

Tshibaka raised $85,000 in the three weeks following the election, and has more than $136,000 left in her campaign account. Tshibaka has not said what she plans to do after the election and whether she intends to launch another run for office.

Iris Samuels

Iris Samuels is a reporter for the Anchorage Daily News focusing on state politics. She previously covered Montana for The Associated Press and wrote for the Kodiak Daily Mirror. Contact her at isamuels@adn.com.

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