— -- The campaign of Alaska Sen. Mark Begich, a Democrat, said today he won't concede that he lost to Republican challenger Dan Sullivan in their close race because all of the votes have yet to be counted.
Begich's refusal to concede came after the Associated Press analysis of the votes determined that Sullivan had won.
"Senator Begich believes every vote deserves to be counted in this election,” Begich's campaign manager Susanne Fleek-Green said in a statement.
“There are tens of thousands of outstanding votes and Senator Begich has heard from rural Alaskans that their votes deserve to be counted and their voices deserve to be heard. He will honor those requests and will follow the Alaska Division of Elections as it continues its process and timetable to reach a final count and allow every Alaskan's vote to speak,” Fleek-Green said.
On Tuesday, the Alaska Division of Elections completed their first full day of counting votes since Election Day and the margins did not change much. Sullivan has 48.58 percent of the vote to Begich's 45.37 percent. Sullivan now leads Begich by 7,911 votes. On election night, with 100 percent of precincts reporting, Sullivan had 49 percent to Begich’s 45.3 percent of the vote with Sullivan leading Begich by 8,149 votes.
It’s a steep deficit to overcome, but Begich is not conceding because there are a large number of votes to be counted, which will continue Friday.
There are still 22,900 absentee ballots to be counted and over 9,900 provisional or questioned ballots that have been deemed eligible waiting to be counted. There are also an unknown amount of early in person votes from rural Alaskan villages where Begich was expected to do well.
Gail Fenumiai, the director of the Alaska Division of Elections describes that outstanding number as “few” and expects those “numbers will not be very high.” There are also 10,300 absentee ballots that have been sent out and not received yet. In Alaska, ballots in the United States that were postmarked by Nov. 4 have until Friday to arrive, and those from overseas have until Nov. 19. Fenumiai said they are “receiving very few daily now.”
Sullivan released a statement after the Associated Press declared him the winner saying he is “deeply humbled and honored to serve my fellow Alaskans in the United States Senate.”
“This was a hard fought race,” Sullivan said, in part, seeming to try and reach out to those who did not vote for him. “As we move forward, I want to emphasize that my door will always be open to all Alaskans."
The spokesperson for the Alaska Democrats, Zack Field, said they were waiting until every vote was tallied. “There are a lot of votes to be counted and we don’t even know how many votes are outstanding so we need to count every vote and see the final total,” he told ABC News.
Another Alaska Democratic political operative watching the vote count said another reason Begich won’t be conceding anytime soon is that “a lot of the votes counted last night were counted in conservative areas.”
“Why would he concede when he doesn’t know how many votes will come in? It’s crazy to concede…and it’s criminal to pre-empt the electoral process from coming to an end. Nothing has changed in the Senate race between today and yesterday and there are still a lot of uncounted votes,” he told ABC News.
Freshmen orientation in the Senate began Wednesday, but an aide said Sullivan is en route to Washington today and will be attending the GOP conference meetings Thursday.
The Alaska gubernatorial race has not been called yet, but the numbers are much closer. After the one day of counting, independent challenger Bill Walker has 47.94 percent of the vote to incumbent GOP Gov. Sean Parnell's 46.3 percent of the vote with Walker leading with 4,004 votes. On election night with 100 percent of precincts reporting Walker had 48 percent to Parnell 46.6 percent leading Parnell by 3,165 votes.