Thursday, September 18, 2008

Alaska Congressman Don Young Finally Certified As Winner By 304 Votes, Sean Parnell Will Not Seek Recount

The election between Alaska's incumbent Republican Congressman Don Young and Republican challenger Sean Parnell has finally been decided. Late on Wednesday September 17th, 2008, the Division of Elections completed the count of all outstanding absentee and questioned ballots and declared Young the winner by 304 votes. And on September 18th, Sean Parnell conceded and said he would not seek a recount. Additional story published by the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.

Young finished with 48,195 votes, while Parnell had 47,891 votes. State Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux (R-Kodiak) was third with 9,901 votes. Most of the outstanding ballots were absentee votes mailed from overseas, typically from members of the military and their families. Congressman Young posted a statement on his official campaign website thanking the people of Alaska for their expression of confidence and congratulating both Sean Parnell and Gabrielle LeDoux on their campaigns.

Either candidate would have been entitled to a recount at public expense rather than campaign expense, since the difference in vote between the two is less than half of one percent, which it is in this case. The recount would have had to have been requested within five days. Any group of 10 or more registered voters could also request a recount, but this is unlikely to happen. However, Sean Parnell, who is also Alaska's Lieutenant Governor, has elected not to request a recount. And he posted a classy concession statement on his official campaign website, although he chose not to take the next step and formally endorse Don Young. Here's an excerpt from that statement:

Every Alaskan who participated in the primary has now had his or her vote properly counted. It is apparent that Congressman Don Young received 304 more votes than I did. I congratulate him on his victory.

The margin between us is 0.28%. Alaska law now permits me to call for a recount that would be provided by the state. That provision in law exists for good reason. Counting ballots, like most other endeavors in life, is not always more than 99% accurate.

Nonetheless, I choose not to call for a recount. I go back to the two main reasons I am in public life: ethics and fiscal responsibility. I have a high degree of confidence in the work of the Division of Elections. If I thought there was anything wrong, inappropriate, or unprofessional about the way this election tally was conducted, I would not only call for a recount, I would demand one. But that is not the case here. While a recount could change the outcome of this exceedingly close election -- normal human error being what it is -- such a result is unlikely. As such, I do not believe it justifies an expenditure of taxpayer funds.

So I choose not to expend any public funds on a recount that would cause further delay in the finality of this election. Once again, I congratulate Don Young.

By conceding, Sean Parnell also avoids any potential conflict of interest questions. As Lieutenant Governor, one of his responsibilities is to supervise the Division of Elections.

Parnell entered the race in dramatic fashion, blindsiding Young at the state GOP convention with his surprise announcement that he would enter the race. However, he squandered the opportunity with a very low-profile campaign. He proved to be an inarticulate and ineffective debater in several high-profile venues. He also may have lost favor with Alaska voters by having his campaign largely funded by individual contributions through the Washington, D.C., anti-earmark group Club for Growth. But Sean Parnell has shown real class in electing not to ask for a recount, and my own respect for him has increased.

Democratic opponent Ethan Berkowitz also issued a statement in reaction to the certification of Don Young's victory:

“I would like to congratulate Don Young on his victory, but also give particular thanks to Sean Parnell and Gabrielle LeDoux. The Lieutenant Governor and Rep. LeDoux fought hard to bring positive change to Alaska’s seat in Congress. I want their supporters to know that they still have that chance. Together, we will finish what your campaigns started.”

And Berkowitz certainly is in the catbird seat at the moment. A recent Ivan Moore poll showed Berkowitz with a 17-point lead over Young. And anyone expecting Ethan Berkowitz to fumble it away a la Sean Parnell will be sadly disappointed. Berkowitz must be considered the favorite at this point, although if Don Young continues to campaign the way he has during the past month, he'll certainly close the gap.

There is one other candidate in the race. The Alaskan Independence Party is running perennial candidate Don Wright, who has no campaign website and customarily avoids candidate surveys and forums. Wright will not be a factor.

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