ANCHORAGE - Mark Begich claimed victory in the Anchorage mayor's race Wednesday after a recount of more than 63,000 ballots.
Begich, a former member of the Anchorage Assembly, ended with 28,603 votes, or 45.03 percent of the total. Under a charter change approved at the April 1 city election, Begich needed one vote more than 45 percent to win. He got 17 more.
"We proved it can be done with a lot less money and a lot of hard work," said Begich, who didn't enter the race until February. "Ten weeks ago we had nothing. No volunteers. No campaign headquarters. No money."
Incumbent Mayor George Wuerch had 23,617 votes, or 37.18 percent. He is the first incumbent mayor to lose since unification of the old borough and city governments in 1975.
Anchorage's mayor is one of the most powerful politicians in the state. The city is Alaska's largest and is home to around 270,000 people, about half the state's population. Several Anchorage mayors have run for governor, including Tony Knowles, who was the state's top elected official from 1994 to 2002.
Wuerch had asked for the recount. On Wednesday, he said he accepted the result.
"I'm confident that we have a final answer that anyone can be confident in," Wuerch said.
He will meet with Begich on Monday to plan the transition, he said.
This is Begich's third attempt to win the city's top job. He also ran in 1994 and 2000.
"Persistence is the way I operate," Begich told a crowd of supporters at the Sheraton Hotel. "Positive is the way I want to be."
The race may not be over yet. A federal lawsuit has been filed to challenge the new charter change that allows the mayor to be elected by a 45 percent plurality.
Plaintiffs in that case say the election change is not legal because it was not approved by the U.S. Department of Justice.