Rep. Young Widens Lead in Alaska Primary
With the regular, absentee and provisional ballots counted, Rep. Don Young now leads Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell in the Alaska House GOP primary by 239 votes. But the race isn't over quite yet, and Young faces a tough general election even if he does eventually beat Parnell.
The primary contest has been unsettled since the Aug. 26 balloting. Young, who has held the seat for 35 years but is now under federal investigation as part of a corruption probe in the state, led his challenger by 151 votes after the initial ballots were counted. The absentee and provisional ballots boosted the incumbent by a fraction of a point -- he now leads 45.45 percent to 45.22 percent.
The Anchorage Daily News says that overseas absentee ballots are still being accepted until Wednesday. After that, a state board will review the results, as is standard practice in every Alaska race. The results will likely be certified around Sept. 18. Unlike some states, Alaska does not provide for an automatic recount except in an exact tie. But the loser of a contest or 10 qualified voters can ask for one to be conducted, and if the race's margin is less than .5 percent, as this one appears certain to be, the state will bear the cost of the recount. Parnell has not said yet whether he would request a recount.
Of course, quite a bit has happened in Alaska since that Aug. 26 primary. Gov. Sarah Palin was chosen as John McCain's running mate on the GOP ticket, which may change the calculus for Parnell. The lieutenant governor jumped into the primary against Young with the encouragement and endorsement of Palin. But now there may be some appeal for him in keeping his current job. He can help run the state while Palin is on the campaign trail, and if the McCain-Palin ticket wins, Parnell would be governor.
Most Republicans still hope that somehow Parnell can pull out a victory in the primary. Why? Check out the latest general election poll, conducted for a handful of Alaska news organizations. It showed the Democratic nominee, Ethan Berkowitz, leading Young, 54 percent to 37 percent. The same poll showed Parnell leading the Democrat by 11 points.
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