Young Race May Take Weeks to Determine

Posted August 27, 2008 at 7:58pm

It could take more than two weeks to determine whether Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) will have a chance to win a 19th term in Congress.

With just one precinct out of 438 yet to report Wednesday evening, Young led Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell by 152 votes in the Republican primary, or 45.5 percent to 45.3 percent of the vote. A third Republican, state Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux, received 9.2 percent of the vote.

The GOP victor will face former state House Minority Leader Ethan Berkowitz, the winner of Tuesday’s Democratic primary.

But it may be weeks before the election is complete. According to Shelly Growden, an election system manager for the state of Alaska, the state may take up to 15 days — though more likely in the 10-day range — to count absentee and “questionable” ballots, otherwise known as provisional ballots. There are said to be about 4,000 absentee ballots that have yet to be counted.

After those ballots are counted, Growden said a state ballot review board will certify the election by Sept. 17 or 18.

If the final difference between the two candidates is less than a half point, a defeated candidate or 10 voters can petition a recount with the state footing the bill. If the difference between Parnell and Young is more than a half point, a recount could be implemented at their expense to the tune of about $15,000.

Growden said a recount could take three to five days, putting the final vote recount into late September.

In a conference call with reporters from his Fort Yukon home, Young said he intends to spend the next two weeks at work while the remaining ballots are counted. He said that once the absentee votes are counted, he expects to be ahead by 1 or 2 points.

“The reality is that we’re ahead now, and we expect to be ahead when the absentee votes are in,” Young said.

Young, who is under federal investigation for a $10 million earmark that would benefit one of his donors, pointed out that he was down 25 points in the polls when Parnell announced last spring. As a result, he said, he considered his campaign to be successful.

“What I think we’ve done is a very successful job at making Alaskans understand that I’m good at what I do and I’m successful at what I do,” Young said.

Young also said it was unlikely he would spend money on a recount if the losing margin was more than a half point.

Though the leader in Tuesday’s primary switched back and forth over the course of a long election night, Young said he went to bed at 10 p.m. and told his staff not to call until the morning unless they had good news.

Parnell also expressed his frustration with the contest in a statement.

“After a long night of narrow margins and back and forth leads, the Republican race for Congress is, quite simply, still too close to call,” Parnell said.

However, he also said he was confident that once the votes are counted, he would emerge victorious.

“It is in everybody’s best interest to get this resolved quickly,” Parnell said. “As we anxiously but patiently await the final count, we remain confident that once all the votes are counted, I will prevail in this race.”

In Florida, Republicans got their man in the marquee 16th district election.

Lawyer Tom Rooney narrowly won the Republican primary Tuesday, setting him up for a hard-fought matchup with freshman Rep. Tim Mahoney (D), one of the GOP’s top targets for November.

Rooney edged state Rep. Gayle Harrell, according to the latest election results, 37 percent to 35 percent. Former Palm Beach Gardens Councilman Hal Valeche took 28 percent.

Rooney, who is part of the family that owns the Pittsburgh Steelers, was the choice of most national GOP leaders to take on Mahoney. The Palm Beach-area 16th district leans Republican in presidential elections, but Mahoney was able to win in 2006 in part because of a scandal surrounding the outgoing incumbent, former Rep. Mark Foley (R).

“Tom Rooney is geared up and ready,” said a memo by the National Republican Congressional Committee.

In Florida’s 8th district, Rep. Ric Keller (R) held off a surprisingly strong challenge from lawyer Todd Long (R), who took 47 percent of the GOP primary vote. In November, Keller will face Alan Grayson (D), a wealthy businessman who won his competitive three-way primary by almost 20 points.

And in the 9th district, lawyer Bill Mitchell won a competitive three-way Democratic primary and will take on freshman Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R) in November. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has put the 9th district on its list of “emerging races.”