After the final spurt of vote-counting in Alaska on November 18th, 2008, it's all but official - Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich has mathematically clinched victory over U.S. Senator Ted Stevens. Full stories from the Anchorage Daily News, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, the Juneau Empire, and KTUU Channel 2. National story from CNN.
At the close of today's counting of absentee and questioned ballots, Begich widened his lead to 3,724 votes. The only known 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 November 25th. Nevertheless, Stevens is mathematically eliminated.
This graphic shows a geographical breakdown of the voting patterns.
Begich issued a statement shortly before 5 P.M. claiming victory. “I am humbled and honored to serve Alaska in the United States Senate,” Begich said. “It’s been an incredible journey getting to this point, and I appreciate the support and commitment of the thousands of Alaskans who have brought us to this day. I can’t wait to get to work fighting for Alaskan families.” On November 19th, KTUU posted extended footage of Begich's press conference, embedded below:
So far, there's been no reaction from the Stevens campaign. Update: On November 19th, Ted Stevens conceded to Mark Begich. In addition, it has also been reported that Stevens will not seek a pardon for his convictions from President George W. Bush. Getting a pardon could undermine Stevens' appeal of his convictions and/or his efforts to get a new trial.
While both campaigns have talked about a possible recount, machine counting in Alaska has resulted in little change in the final tallies of other disputed elections. The latest votes to be tallied appear to give Begich a lead of more than the half-percent that would qualify the loser for a state-paid recount. Stevens retains the option to fund a recount himself. Either candidate has five days to request a recount after the results are officially certified.
The News-Miner posted this amusing and descriptive paragraph about Ted Stevens:
The crotchety octogenarian built like a birch sapling likes to encourage comparisons with the Incredible Hulk, but he occupies an outsized place in Alaska history. His involvement in politics dates to the days before Alaska statehood, and he is esteemed for his ability to secure billions of dollars in federal aid for transportation and military projects. The Anchorage airport bears his name; in Alaska, it’s simply “Uncle Ted.”
"Crotchety" is a good description. Unfortunately, it hasn't always rebounded to his advantage. One of the jurors in the Ted Stevens trial recently disclosed that Ted Stevens' "crotchety" attitude on the witness stand facilitated the guilty verdicts returned against him. Read Juror 11's blog HERE.
Begich, who will be the first Democrat to represent Alaska in the U.S. Senate since Mike Gravel served in that body, puts the Democrats one step closer to a filibuster-proof majority of 60 seats. Two more possibilities remain; if chubby comic Al Franken overtakes incumbent Norm Coleman in Minnesota (Franken trails by 215 votes and has asked for a recount), and if Jim Martin overhauls incumbent Saxby Chambliss in a Georgia runoff election (Chambliss leads with 49.9 percent of the vote, but needs 50 percent plus one to avoid a runoff election and be declared the winner).
While Ted Stevens' indictment and subsequent conviction may have been a major factor in his defeat, the presence of Alaska Independence Party candidate Bob Bird in the race may have sealed Stevens' doom. As of November 18th, Bird now has garnered 13,113 voters. Even if only two-thirds of those voters had voted for Stevens, it would have changed the outcome. And since the AIP is considered paleoconservative, to the right of the Republican Party, it is reasonable to assume that most of Bird's voters would have selected Stevens had Bird not been in the race.
The election of Mark Begich, while costing Alaska Ted Stevens' valuable seniority, will give Alaska some stroke with the U.S. Senate Democratic majority. In addition, Begich has the years of political experience necessary to get the most out of his limited seniority. And Mark Begich, as mayor, has been strong on public safety issues, and is at least a social moderate, although he is excessively beholden to the unions, and has some expensive civic tastes. Many fees for municipal services have risen through the roof during his mayoral tenure.
But no, he's NOT another Nancy Pelosi. And maybe he can get ANWR opened up.