Mark Begich couldn't pull off another election surprise as Republican Dan Sullivan, a Marine Corps reservist and assistant secretary of state under President George W. Bush, defeated the first-term incumbent as part of a wave in which Republicans regained control of the Senate. Another Senate race is yet to be decided in Louisiana. The Alaska race was too close to call on election night last week, with Sullivan up by about 8,100 votes, but it became evident yesterday when the state began counting about 20,000 absentee and questioned ballots that Begich could not overcome Sullivan. In a statement, Sullivan said he ran a campaign Alaskans could be proud of and, moving forward, "I want to emphasize that my door will always be open to all Alaskans."
Begich, who has returned to Washington for the lame-duck session, wouldn't concede the race early today. "Sen. Begich believes every vote deserves to be counted in this election. There are tens of thousands of outstanding votes," says his campaign manager. In another close race, independent candidate Bill Walker led incumbent Republican Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell by about 4,000 votes, with more to be counted starting Friday. Although he hasn't been declared the winner, Walker planned to announce a transition team today. The Alaska Senate seat was initially considered key to the Republicans' hopes of taking control of the US Senate, but that goal was accomplished early on election night.