UPDATE: Begich concedes to Dunleavy in race for Governor
Democrat Mark Begich has conceded the gubernatorial race to Republican Mike Dunleavy.
"Earlier this morning I spoke with Mike Dunleavy to congratulate him on being Alaska's next Governor," the statement read in part. "While we have many differences, we are Alaskans first. That is why I let him know that I stand ready to help move Alaska forward and create a better future for all Alaskans."
Begich's statement continued to say the stakes are too high for divisive politics and policies and that Alaskans must come together, and stay engaged in the process.
Dunleavy is planning to announce his transition team and cabinet appointments Thursday afternoon.
With 433 of 442 precincts reporting, Dunleavy is leading main opponent Begich with 123,447 to 102,654 as of 6:00 a.m. Wednesday morning.
Just after midnight, Dunleavy's campaign released a statement from Dunleavy, saying, "I am deeply humbled by the trust Alaska's voters have placed in me, and take seriously the difficult task before us. If Alaskans come together, I truly believe there's nothing we can't overcome, and know in my heart that Alaska's best days are ahead."
As of 11:40 p.m., with 389 of 441 precincts reporting, Republican candidate Mike Dunleavy is holding a nearly 10 point lead over Democratic challenger Mark Begich.
Republican Mike Dunleavy appears to have weathered a barrage of last-minute negative advertising as he took the lead in early returns Tuesday evening against Democrat Mark Begich for Alaska governor. As of 9:45 p.m. Tuesday, Dunleavy held a lead of 65,769 over 55,674 for Begich, with 168 of 442 precincts reporting.
Dunleavy, a state senator until he quit in January to pursue his election full-time, promised Alaskans that he would reduce the state budget, fight crime by repealing the criminal justice reform he once voted for — Senate Bill 91 — and give Alaskans a full Permanent Fund dividend for the past three years in which it was reduced.
The dividend payment would amount to something like $6,000. Gov. Bill Walker had said that Dunleavy’s proposal would bankrupt the state, but Walker dropped out of the race for governor three weeks ago to improve Begich’s chances against Dunleavy.
Dunleavy argued that Begich was a “career politician” who wanted to return to elected office. Begich had been elected to the Anchorage Assembly, was Anchorage’s elected mayor, and served a term in the U.S. Senate until his defeat by Dan Sullivan in 2014. Since then, he has run a consulting business, Northern Compass Group.
Begich was running neck-and-neck against Walker, but both were a distant second and third place to Dunleavy, who commanded a lead in polls for months. The Alaska AFL-CIO chief, Vince Beltrami, widely credited with convincing Walker to become an independent and run a unity ticket with then-Democratic candidate Byron Mallott, had tried to get Begich to withdraw from the race and give Walker a chance, but Begich declined. Even after the AFL-CIO and other unions endorsed Walker, Begich stayed in the race.
Then Walker’s campaign collapsed. Mallott resigned as lieutenant governor on Oct. 16 over an “inappropriate” comment to a woman. Three days later, his name already printed on ballots, Walker said he was done — he wouldn’t seek re-election. He said it was more important that Begich beat Dunleavy than to remain in the race himself.