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Mary Peltola, first Alaska Native elected to Congress, will be sworn in today


WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Democrat Mary Peltola will be sworn in as a member of Congress. But Monday morning she was talking to reporters in front of a locked door to what was Congressman Don Young's office, across the street from the U.S. Capitol.

"I don't have keys yet," she said, between interviews with Time Magazine and CBS. "I'm not officially a member yet, so I am standing here as one of Don's constituents."

Alaskans elected Peltola to fill the remainder of Young's term. Alaska's sole seat in the House has been vacant since he died in March.

Peltola is drawing an unusual amount of national media attention as the first Alaska Native elected to Congress, and even more because of her special election win over Sarah Palin, a former Alaska governor endorsed by former President Donald Trump. She's receiving more than 100 interview requests a day, her new spokesman said.

She was surprised to find she was even recognized here on the street.

"There was a young man who said, 'Whoa, did you just win the seat in Alaska?' And so we got a selfie ... it was really sweet," she said.

Her swearing in will be on the House floor at 2:30 p.m. Alaska time on Tuesday. It can be watched here. It will be followed by a ceremonial swearing-in in a reception room off the House floor.

Peltola is in Washington with her seven children (including three step-children), two grandchildren, two sisters and her husband.

The day before the swearing-in was filled with tasks big and small. She had to pick up a special lapel pin that identifies her as a member of the U.S. House, allowing her to waltz past security all over the Capitol. She had to start a series of COVID tests to accept an invitation to the White House to watch President Biden sign a bill Tuesday afternoon.

Plus "a lot of interviews, and I am going to be taking my 16-year-old to make sure that he has a suit that fits," she said.

While she's serving the remainder of Young's term, Peltola will also be campaigning for re-election in November, when she'll be on the ballot with Republicans Sarah Palin and Nick Begich, and Libertarian Chris Bye.

Elated Alaskan Brian Guvenir happened upon Peltola as he was walking up Capitol Hill from the National Mall.

"I came around and I said, 'Oh, there's Mary Peltola!'" said Guvenir, a nurse from Anchorage visiting D.C. while his wife attends a conference here.

Guvenir, an independent, said he voted for Peltola and was impressed with the civil tone she set for her campaign.

"We're cheering for her so much. So much," he said. "I know this is a big task, big responsibility. I know she's somewhat nervous but that's OK. We're cheering her to do this job for all Alaskans."

Peltola also took a moment for a selfie with a pair of Australian tourists.

"God's wisdom on you and your future," Jane Jayes, of Perth, said as they parted.

"I need all the prayers I can get, so thank you so much," Peltola said.

On Monday, she quickly ticked through her to-do list. By the afternoon Peltola had her pin and gained access to her office in the Rayburn House Office Building.

Copyright 2022 Alaska Public Media. To see more, visit Alaska Public Media.