Young wins Alaska House primary race

Sean Parnell has said he would ask for recount of Aug. 26 vote

Posted: Thursday, September 18, 2008

U.S. Rep. Don Young won the Republican primary battle over the state's only seat in the House, Alaska election officials said.

In a close race only decided Wednesday with the final counting of about 350 outstanding absentee and questioned ballots, Young beat Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell by 304 votes.

State election officials will certify the election on Thursday.

Parnell has said he would ask for a recount. Election officials have said a recount of the Aug. 26 vote could take up to 10 days to complete.

Since the primary, Young has held a slim lead over Parnell, who had the backing of his popular boss, Gov. Sarah Palin, the Republican vice presidential candidate.

Young is next slated to face Democrat Ethan Berkowitz in the general election.

"We need to wait and see what the lieutenant governor does now. The move's in his court. We'll see where we go from here," said Mike Anderson, Young's campaign spokesman.

Young was in Washington, D.C., where it was 11:12 p.m. when results came in. Anderson said he promised the congressman that he would not wake him up.

"We were confident going into this with the preliminary reports we had that the count was actually increasing his numbers and it looks like that trend continued," he said.

Attempts to reach Parnell, who was traveling to Fairbanks on Wednesday, were not immediately successful.

Young finished with 48,195 votes; Parnell had 47,891 votes. State Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux of Kodiak was third with 9,901 votes.

"I would like to congratulate Don Young on his victory, but also give particular thanks to Sean Parnell and Gabrielle LeDoux," Berkowitz said in a statement when reaching out to their supporters.

He said both fought 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," he said.

Young, a 35-year veteran of the U.S. House and under federal investigation, had held a 239-vote lead over Parnell until the last ballots were counted.

Most of the outstanding ballots were absentee votes mailed from overseas, typically from members of the military and their families.

After the results are certified, a candidate or group of 10 registered voters may request a recount - to be paid for by the state if the difference is less than half of 1 percent, which this is.

They have five days to request the recount, which must be held within three days. Elections Director Gail Fenumiai estimates the recount then would take three days to complete.

Parnell has trailed Young since primary night despite Palin's support and the legal cloud over Young.

Young is under investigation for ties to oil field services company VECO Corp., and has spent more than $1 million from his campaign war chest on legal fees.

The federal corruption investigation of Alaska politics has seen three state lawmakers sent to federal prison and two more awaiting trial. U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens, who breezed through his primary race, is also awaiting trial, which is set to begin Monday in Washington, D.C.

Stevens, the Senate's longest-serving Republican, has pleaded not guilty to charges he lied on Senate disclosure forms to hide hundreds of thousands of dollars in gifts and home renovations he received from VECO.

Stevens faces Democrat Mark Begich, the popular mayor of Anchorage, on Nov. 4.

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