ANCHORAGE, Alaska — The two highest-profile races of the general election in Alaska remained in limbo on Friday. They will likely stay that way until the count of absentee votes starts early next week.
Republican challenger Dan Sullivan led U.S. Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, by over 8,100 votes after Tuesday's general election. The gubernatorial race was even closer, with independent candidate Bill Walker holding about a 3,000-vote edge over incumbent Republican Gov. Sean Parnell.
The Alaska Division of Elections said there are at least 41,000 absentee and provisional ballots to be counted, a number that could grow significantly. Election workers are scheduled to start counting those votes on Tuesday.
The Senate race at one time was thought it might play a role in deciding which party had control of the chamber, but that changed quickly as Republicans swept Senate races across the country.
Begich remained out of the public eye on Friday. He was spending time with his family after the long campaign, his spokesman said.
Sullivan was attending Marine Corps reservist training, but he was expected back in time for Tuesday's count.
Both campaigns were waiting for the Division of Elections to release how many additional absentee votes may come in.
Nonetheless, Sullivan's campaign maintains the lead is insurmountable, a view not shared by Begich's camp.
"All the votes deserved to be counted, and the vote count hasn't started yet," Begich spokesman Max Croes said, adding it's not even known how many uncounted votes exist.
Carl Shepro, a University of Alaska Anchorage emeritus political science professor, said that given the amount of time and money Begich invested in rural Alaska, a voting demographic Sullivan didn't court as heavily, there is a chance — albeit slim — Begich could come back.
"It really looks like Begich would have a tough time overcoming that lead," Shepro said. "A lot of the absentee ballots are military, and they're likely Republican and they probably would support Sullivan."