Alaska, Oregon, Minnesota Senate Races Incredibly Tight

Posted November 5, 2008 at 2:34am

Senate races in three states remained too close to call early Wednesday morning — with winners unlikely to be declared anytime soon.

The Minnesota battle between Sen. Norm Coleman (R) and comedian Al Franken (D) is almost certainly headed to a recount, with just 416 votes separating the two candidates.

With 96 percent of all precincts reporting, Franken had 1,156,027 votes for 42 percent, and Coleman had 1,155,151 votes for 42 percent. Former Sen. Dean Barkley (I) had 15 percent.

Under Minnesota law, if the two leading candidates are within less than one half of 1 percentage point of each other, an automatic recount is triggered, which could take days.

In Oregon and Alaska, the races are equally close, but with just over 50 percent of the precincts reporting in the two states.

In Oregon, with 53 percent of precincts reporting, state Speaker Jeff Merkley (D) had 457,132 votes, for 47 percent, and Sen. Gordon Smith (R) had 451,276 votes, also for 47 percent. Dave Brownlow, the Constitution Party candidate, had 6 percent. Oregon is the only state where voters cast votes exclusively by mail.

Meanwhile, in Alaska, convicted Sen. Ted Stevens (R) had a 48 percent to 47 percent lead over Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich (D). Stevens was convicted last week in a federal corruption trial, and Begich was thought to be ahead since the Senator’s conviction.

Democrats will fall short of the filibuster-proof 60-seat majority they were seeking, and the three uncalled races will determine just how large their majority will be. So far, Democrats have picked up five seats, knocking off GOP Sens. Elizabeth Dole (N.C.) and John Sununu (N.H.) and capturing open seats in Colorado, New Mexico and Virginia. Including two Independents who caucus with the Democrats, that puts the party at 56 Senate seats, pending the results of the Alaska, Oregon and Minnesota races.