More than a week after Election Day, Republican Dan Sullivan was called the winner early Wednesday morning in his campaign against U.S. Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, by the Associated Press. The AP called the race the day after Alaska election officials began counting some 20,000 absentee and provisional ballots.
Sullivan was leading Begich by about 8,000 votes when the counting begun, and the AP said the incumbent would not be able to overcome Sullivan’s advantage. Still, Begich, who won the seat in another close race against then-U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, did not concede the race. His seat represented the eighth one picked up by Republicans in the 2014 midterm elections, which saw GOP candidates win in a wave that swept the country.
"Sen. Begich believes every vote deserves to be counted in this election,” Begich’s campaign manager, Susanne Fleek-Green, told the AP in an email. “There are tens of thousands of outstanding votes and Sen. Begich has heard from rural Alaskans that their votes deserve to be counted and their voices deserve to be heard. He will honor those requests."
Sullivan, Alaska’s attorney general under then-Gov. Sarah Palin and a Marine reservist, said he was “deeply humbled and honored” to be voted Alaska’s next senator on his Facebook page.
“From day one we told our supporters that we would run a campaign that Alaskans could be proud of and that’s what we did,” Sullivan said. “But we couldn't do it alone and [wife] Julie and I are so grateful for the incredible support and encouragement we received from Alaskans in every corner of our state.”
Alaska’s remote terrain explains why the state is slower than others to count absentee ballots. Some Alaskan communities “may only get a mail plane once or twice a week,” Shelley Growden, elections systems manager for Alaska’s Division of Elections, earlier told International Business Times. Absentee ballots have 15 days to reach an election office if they’re mailed from overseas and as long as they are postmarked by Election Day. Absentee ballots from within the U.S. have 10 days to turn up at the office.
Along with the absentee ballots, Alaska officials started counting provisional ballots, or what are known as questioned ballots in Alaska, on Tuesday. The AP said that the count indicates Begich can’t eke out a victory.