Alaska's Own Mary Peltola Goes Through Staffers Like a Grizzly Through a Salmon Run

Credit: Peltola4Congress Facebook page

Speaking as RedState's most popular Alaskan (mostly because I'm the only Alaskan), I can say that I'm not a fan of ranked-choice voting. I'm also not a fan of the Alaska Democratic Party, as I don't think they represent the values that make Alaska, Alaska. But I get one vote, and they each get one vote. That's how our Republic works.

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Let's take a look at Alaska's Congressional representation, bearing in mind that Alaska is a fairly reliably red state; in 2020 the Great Land voted for Trump over Biden by 52.8 percent over 42.8 percent. In that same pre-ranked-choice year, Senator Sullivan won re-election against Democrat Al Gross by a similar margin, by 53.9 percent to 41.2 percent. Then came ranked-choice voting, which handed the state's other Senate seat back to Lisa Murkowski and the state's sole at-large House seat to Democrat Mary Peltola.

At present, then, Alaska has a mixed Congressional delegation consisting of one Republican, one Democrat, and Lisa Murkowski.

As it turns out, for reasons that have yet to be determined beyond doubt, Mrs. Peltola is having trouble retaining staffers

According to Legistorm, a website that tracks all kinds of data on the U.S. House and Senate, Alaska’s Rep. Mary Peltola has the fifth-highest turnover of staff among all 435 members.

It’s a rocky start for the freshman from the 49th state who has been in office since September of 2022. Peltola won election after the death of Congressman Don Young in March of 2022.

Most of Congressman Young’s staff stayed for years, and some for decades. Alex Ortiz, for example, Young’s most recent chief of staff, stayed with Young for over 10 years. Young’s state directors stayed for decades at a time.

Ortiz was immediately hired by Peltola to be her chief of staff, but he left after just a couple of months. She’s also gone through at least four state directors. 

In fact, Peltola has gone through more state directors in one year than Young went through in 40 years.

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That's interesting, and one reason for this comes immediately to mind; to be fair-minded, one might note that any staff job in D.C. would be a major culture shock to anyone from vast, wild, majestic, and free Alaska; people who set foot in that once and present fever swamp that we call a national capitol couldn't be blamed for making a quick exit back to the Great Land, forthwith. I know I would; were, say, a future Congressman Nick Begich offered me a D.C. position, I would have to demur; I wouldn't leave Alaska for that place on a bet.

But not all the staffers are in Washington, and there are other indicators.

Part of it may be that Peltola said she was bipartisan and hired a few Republican staff to prove it, but she has quickly dumped all of her Republicans (sic) staffers. 

Part of it may be the screaming: Peltola has a reputation for taking staff members behind closed doors and dressing them down so loudly that others in the office can hear every detail.

Screaming, yes, may have a lot to do with it as well. That's generally not the way to win hearts and minds among one's staff.

It's easy to argue that ranked-choice voting installed Mary Peltola against the wishes of a majority of Alaskans. There is a significant effort now to repeal that ill-advised idea and return Alaska to its former closed-primary, traditional general election scheme. (Full disclosure; my wife and I have both signed the petition and support the effort.) I've written about this topic before, and it's easier to refer you to that piece than to re-hash it here. But, yes, high staff turnover is not an indicator of an officeholder's smoothly running shop, and unlike some of the usual suspects, Mrs. Peltola is from a red state where her re-election is anything but assured. That doesn't augur well for a reelection campaign, either.

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I'm inclined to be charitable and point out that Mary Peltola and her family underwent a tragic loss not too long ago, which can certainly put anyone out of sorts for a while, and indeed, our hearts go out to her family when remembering that incident. But it has been a matter of months now, and our elected leaders should not be held to the same standards as the rest of us. They are supposed to soldier on; they have the deep responsibility of seeing to the needs of their constituents. The old saying about heat and kitchens applies.

Alaska may well not return Mrs. Peltola to the House in 2024. I will bend every personal effort to ensure we do not; politics is a rough business. Our Governor is firmly in the Trump camp, one sees an awful lot of "TRUMP 2024" flags and "F*** Joe Biden" bumper stickers hereabouts; it will all, as with all elections, come down to turnout. Rumors of ill will from her staff won't help Mrs. Peltola any. 

Then again, it won't hurt that much, either. Most people who aren't political info junkies will never hear about this. We'll have to wait, one supposes, until a year from now to find out.

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