U.S. Rep. Don Young had a bit more breathing room Saturday in his still unfinished Republican primary race.
Young's slim lead has widened against Alaska Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell, to 239 votes - up from 151 votes after the Aug. 26 primary election - as election workers finished counting absentee and questioned ballots early Saturday.
Overseas absentee ballots are still being accepted until Wednesday, when they will be counted.
The difference separating Young and Parnell is less than a quarter of a percent, and campaign spokesman Mike Anderson said Young was happy but cautious.
"It's not over until the rest of the votes come in," Anderson said.
Parnell could not immediately be reached for comment Saturday.
Young, the subject of a federal investigation for his ties to oil field services company VECO Corp., is seeking his 19th term as Alaska's lone congressman. The latest figures from the state Division of Elections show him ahead of Parnell by 48,006 to 47,767.
The latest returns were posted early Saturday morning, but the counting process started Friday. Division director Gail Fenumiai said the tallying was slow because some ballots hadn't been opened and prepped ahead of time.
The division hopes to certify the election results by Sept. 18.
The defeated candidate or 10 qualified voters who believe an error has been made in the count have five days after certification to request a recount.
A tie vote would automatically trigger a recount.
The state will pay the cost of a recount if the difference in votes between the two candidates was 20 or less or was less than .5 percent of the total votes for the two candidates.
Otherwise the candidate or the group of qualified voters must pick up the tab.
Young said in a press statement Friday that while the process continues, "I am campaigning with the full intention of being the Republican nominee in the general election."
The winner of the primary will face the Democratic challenger Ethan Berkowitz in the November general election.
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