Politics & Government

Begich defeats Stevens in Alaska Senate race

Mark Begich has defeated Sen. Ted Stevens in the election for U.S. Senate.

The Democratic Anchorage mayor widened his lead to 3,724 votes in Tuesday's counting of absentee and questioned ballots. The only votes left to count are approximately 2,500 special absentees from people living outside the U.S. or in remote parts of Alaska with no polling place.

The state will count those final ballots on Nov. 25.

Begich issued a statement just before 5 p.m. Alaska time claiming victory, saying "I am humbled and honored to serve Alaska in the United States Senate."

He said around 5:30 p.m. that he hadn't heard from Stevens, and noted it was after 9 p.m. in Washington.

"I would assume I would hear from him probably tomorrow," Begich said.

Neither Stevens nor his campaign has issued a statement.

Begich more than tripled his lead after the state counted about 23,000 absentee and questioned ballots from Anchorage, Southeast Alaska, the Kenai Peninsula and Kodiak. The state finished counting from other parts of the Alaska last week.

The campaigns have talked about a possible recount in early December. But since the state moved to mostly machine counting, recent Alaska recounts have resulted in little change in the final tally.

Begich would be the first Democrat to represent Alaska in the U.S. Senate in nearly 30 years. His victory would also put the Democrats one step closer to their dream of having the 60 seats needed for a filibuster-proof majority in the U.S. Senate. To get 60 seats, the Democrats would also need Al Franken to beat Republican Sen. Norm Coleman in a Minnesota recount, and for Jim Martin to beat Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss in a Georgia runoff election.

For Alaskans, the more sweeping impact of today's count is the close of the "Uncle Ted" era. Stevens' run started not long after statehood, when Gov. Wally Hickel appointed him to the Senate in 1968. Stevens has never even had a close election since, often drawing just token opposition.

Stevens steered billions of dollars to Alaska and had a hand in most of the major federal legislation that's shaped Alaska. He was honored as "Alaskan of the Century" and the state Legislature named the Anchorage airport after him.

That was before a Washington, D.C., jury found him guilty of seven felonies a week before the election for lying on financial disclosure forms about $250,000 of gifts and home renovations from the oilfield services company Veco.

Stevens, 85, was trying to be the first person ever elected to the Senate following a felony verdict. Stevens is appealing the verdict.

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