Sullivan Wins Senate Seat in Alaska; Begich Refuses to Concede

Republican Dan Sullivan was picking a transition team an hour after the Associated Press today declared him the winner of the U.S. Senate election in Alaska.

“I am deeply humbled and honored to be chosen by my fellow Alaskans to serve them in the United States Senate. 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. But we couldn't do it alone and Julie and I are so grateful for the incredible support and encouragement we received from Alaskans in every corner of our state,” Sullivan said in a statement on his Facebook page.

Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska), on the other hand, displayed the resolve of a born-and-bred Alaskan waiting for the spring thaw as he refused to concede the election.

Begich campaign spokesman Max Croes said the first-term senator would not concede until all outstanding ballots had been counted.

“Tens of thousands of votes remain uncounted, and those Alaskans deserve for their voices to be heard,” Croes said in a statement, reported by newsminer.com.

Alaska elections workers, meanwhile, continued to count ballots.

And, oh yes, Alaska is still waiting to find out who its next governor will be.

Sullivan defeated Begich 48.8 percent to 45.4 percent. The gap is 7,911 votes.

However, votes cast at precincts in Alaska are only part of the equation.

Ballots from other locations are still being counted in Alaska from the Nov. 4 general election, a process that will continue for most of the month of November.

“We are anxious for a final count,” said Susanne Fleek-Green, the campaign manager for Begich for Senate.

She also said Begich would only make a statement (concession or otherwise) after ballots arrive from 70 villages that had not reported three days after the election “and when the number of outstanding absentee and questioned ballots is clear.”

As far as former attorney general Sullivan is concerned, though, the election is over and he is ready to move to Washington D.C.

“Now, the real work begins,” his campaign wrote on the Sullivan for Senate Facebook page. “We’re going to get our country back on track and empower Alaskan families and communities to decide their own destiny.”

Sullivan was so confident of victory, it was widely reported in Alaska, that he left for Marine Corps Reserve training a couple of days after the election.

The problem is Alaska.

The Last Frontier, as the nation’s 49th state proudly brands itself, is so big, so diverse, with areas so remote — Sen. Lisa Murkwoski (R-Alaska) recently participated in a First Flush Ceremony, cutting the ribbon on a toilet in a village that finally had indoor plumbing — that absentee and mail-in ballots are still, well, in the mail.

Close to 24,000 absentee and early ballots had yet to be counted as of Nov. 6. The count began Tuesday and Sullivan maintained his advantage.

There are also questioned ballots. These are usually ballots that are cast at the wrong polling location. Those numbers were still coming in three days after the general election. But the Alaska Dispatch News reported there were almost 13,000 of those ballots that had to be counted in the 2010 election.