Begich still fighting in Alaska while Virginia's Gillespie mulls his options

The two undecided Senate races in Virginia and Alaska remain...well, undecided.  Both trailing candidates – incumbent Alaska Senator Mark Begich and GOP challenger Ed Gillespie in Virginia – don't have much of a chance to overcome the leader's margin.  But that hasn't stopped either man from conceding anything to their opponent.

Alaska Dispatch:

A day after Republican Dan Sullivan sprung to the lead in Alaska’s U.S. Senate race, his opponent, incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Begich, refused to concede, citing tens of thousands of outstanding votes -- particularly those in rural parts of the state.

Numbers released by Alaska elections officials Wednesday morning showed Begich facing daunting odds: He needs to win a substantial majority of as many as 50,000 uncounted absentee and other outstanding ballots to catch up with Sullivan.

But even as Republicans sounded confident, distributing press clippings touting their substantial cushion, the Begich campaign said it was holding out, issuing a statement shortly before 11 a.m. that was far from a concession.

The statement referenced voters in rural areas, which Begich’s campaign had targeted with an unprecedented effort to register voters and bring them to the polls early. As of Wednesday, elections officials hadn’t counted any of the early votes from several districts with rural populations.

“Alaskans for Begich is anxious for a final count of all of Alaskans' ballots and respects the procedures, process and timetable of the Alaska Division of Elections,” the campaign’s statement said, referencing the name of Begich’s political committee.

A spokesperson for Begich wouldn’t answer questions Wednesday. Begich was with his family and unavailable, another spokesperson said.

With 100 percent of precincts reporting early Wednesday, Sullivan led Begich by about 8,000 votes.

State elections officials said there were nearly 24,000 uncounted absentee and early votes, which won’t be tallied until next week. There are also 13,804 absentee ballots voters had requested but not yet returned to the state, though it was unclear how many of those would ultimately end up being counted.

Then there are questioned ballots -- typically cast by Alaskans who voted at the wrong polling place. Elections officials won’t know how many questioned ballots were cast until Thursday, but there were roughly 13,000 in the last midterm election in 2010.

To beat Sullivan, Begich would have to take 8,000 votes from Sullivan out of all the outstanding ballots -- which appear unlikely to top 50,000 total. Republicans pointed to the party affiliation of absentee voters, which wasn’t substantially different from the party makeup of the general electorate.

A tall order for Begich.  By some estimates, he would have to best Sullivan at a rate of 2:1 in rural Alaska ballots to make it, because the absentee ballots will probably break about the same as votes cast in the election on Tuesday.  Not impossible, but not very likely.

Gillespie's problem is different.  He's going to have to hope that there were enough mistakes in the count and enough ruined ballots supporting him to overcome a 17,000-vote lead by Warner.

Bill Straub:

While no official action has been taken, the contest is almost sure to result in a recount. With 99.9 percent of the state’s precincts voting, Warner maintains a razor-thin lead of fewer than 17,000 out of almost 2.2 million ballots cast. The results show Warner, seeking a second six-year term, with 1,071,283, or 49.2 percent of the vote while Gillespie, a former aide to President George W. Bush and onetime chairman of the Republican National Committee has 1,054,556, or 48.4 percent.

Under Virginia state law, a candidate who is behind after all the votes are counted can request a recount if the margin is one percent or less of the total cast. The current tally is within that margin and Gillespie now has until Nov. 14 to make his request.

In the meantime, the Virginia State Board of Elections is conducting a re-canvass to verify the unofficial results released by Virginia Department of Elections.

“Now we owe it to the voters of Virginia to respect the canvassing process that is underway to get an official result,” Gillespie said in a statement Wednesday. “We will be watching the results closely so that we can ensure Virginians have confidence in the accuracy of the results.”

Gillespie added that he will “respect the decision reached by Virginia’s voters.”

Warner, who posits himself as a pro-business, moderate Democrat, declared victory Tuesday night, acknowledging the outcome was much closer than he anticipated. Gillespie, meanwhile, has not conceded and is pondering his next move.

“It was a hard-fought race,” said Warner, who trailed most of the evening. “I’ll go back to Washington and recognize we’ve got to find that common ground” in a Senate about to be controlled by Republicans.

Warner told supporters he’s willing to work with any lawmaker “to make sure we get our country’s problems fixed.”

Gillespie commended Warner for staging “a very vigorous campaign.”

Like Begich, Gillespie has an uphill climb to achieve final victory.  The difference is, a GOP victory in Alaska would add another seat to the Republican column.



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