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UA Board of Regents Meeting: Highlights December 3, 2008

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I went to the UA Board of Regents meeting on non-political business, but it was a long meeting, and I had the opportunity to hear what Martha Stewart (no, not that Martha Stewart), the university’s Director of Federal Relations, had to say about the new political reality for Alaska in Washington, D.C.  Here are the high points:

  • She thinks that Alaska won’t be badly damaged with regard to appropriations: although Stevens is gone from the appropriations committee, his best friend Dan Inouye (D-HI) is the chairman, and Inouye knows what it’s like for Alaska due to his friendship with Stevens and his experience as a senator from a non-lower-48 state.  Inouye is likely to remain friendly to Alaska.
  • With regard to our existing Senate committee appointments, she said that having Lisa Murkowski on the Energy & Natural Resources committee is going to prove very beneficial to Alaska as we work to restructure the U.S.A.’s energy economy.  She also mentioned that Mark Begich has put in for a variety of appointments, including Appropriations and Commerce.  She thinks it’s unlikely he’ll get Appropriations but Commerce is a definite possibility.
  • She characterized Stevens’ staff as “still in shock” after the defeat, and unsure of their future.  She’s not sure how many, if any, will be picked up by Begich for his staff, but that Stevens’ office on the Hill will close December 22.
  • Of Don Young, she said, “This is probably his last term in office.”  I didn’t have a chance to ask why she thinks that.  Young’s challengers have certainly improved in terms of credibility and posing a legitimate threat, but he won this past race pretty handily even if it wasn’t the 40% thrashing he usually delivers.  Perhaps Stewart is expecting that Coconut Road earmark to catch up to him in court?

That was basically it.  There were other highlights to the meeting, but for the most part they were university-related, not politics-related.  Enjoy your Wednesday.

Oh wait- I just remembered I have one other quote to relate.  University President Mark Hamilton apparently met with Governor Palin at the Great Alaska Shootout basketball tournament in Anchorage last weekend- just prior to her trip to Georgia to campaign for Saxby Chambliss- and Hamilton had this to say:

“I reminded her that we [the University] have no money… she was very happy and very upbeat, and what that means in a political setting I have no idea.”

Sounds like politics as usual.


Stevens Concedes November 19, 2008

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This was, of course, all over but the shouting yesterday, but Stevens’ concession makes it official.  You should read the whole press release; while somewhat terse, it’s appropriate and gracious.

An excerpt:
“I am proud of the campaign we ran and regret that the outcome was not what we had hoped for. I am deeply grateful to Alaskans for allowing me to serve them for 40 years in the U.S. Senate. It has been the greatest honor of my life to work with Alaskans of all political persuasions to make this state that we all love a better place.”

AP Calls Senate Race for Begich November 18, 2008

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There are only about 2400 ballots left outstanding, which is more than 1300 less than Begich’s lead.


I beat the Associated Press by about an hour and a half.  Suck on that, mainstream media.

End Of The Road: I’m Calling It For Begich November 18, 2008

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UPDATE 4:45 PM: Begich now leads by 1.18% – 3,724 votes.  It’s over.

As I write this, less than 8,000 ballots remain uncounted statewide.  All of the remaining ballots are from the Anchorage region.

Mark Begich now leads Ted Stevens by 2,374 votes.  Major news sites don’t have the freedom to go out on a limb like I do, but as of this moment, I am calling this one over.  Stevens would have to win 65% of the remaining ballots to pull even, and in Anchorage that’s never going to happen.  Right now Begich is outside even the 0.5% margin which would trigger a recount.

Alaska has a new U.S. Senator, and his name is Mark Begich.

Sweeps Week November 17, 2008

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You might think that the week two weeks after the election is a dull week in politics.  This year, you’d be very wrong.  In addition to national happenings, such as the selection of President-elect Obama’s cabinet, the ongoing economic crisis, and some pretty tough back-and-forthing among members of the GOP about who is actually responsible for the party’s collapse on election day, there are quite a few significant events which will take place this week.  Here’s the rundown as I see it.

  • Monday will see more ballot counting by state elections officials. 24,000 ballots are still outstanding, and the plan is to count almost all of them tomorrow.  A few close local races will likely be decided on Monday, and Alaska’s U.S. Senate race could be as well.  This could be good news for both Republicans and Democrats on the national level, because of what happens Tuesday.
  • Tuesday, both Republicans and Democrats in the U.S. Senate will meet (in separate caucuses, of course) to determine assignments for the new Senate.  If the outcome of the Alaska Senate race isn’t determined by Tuesday, the Republicans will face the unpleasant question of whether or not to eject him from the caucus (as some Senate Republicans have suggested they will attempt) in the event that he wins his race.  The Republicans are understandably uneasy about doing this to an elder statesman of the party, but many feel they have no choice after Stevens’ felony convictions.  Realistically, while they would like to keep the seat, many Senate Republicans would count a Begich win as a mixed blessing, as it would spare them a difficult decision about one of their party’s most senior figures.
  • In the Democrats’ Tuesday meeting, they will decide whether or not to let fairweather Dem Joe Lieberman keep his important chairmanship of the Homeland Security committee.  If they decide to let him keep it, the internet will explode with the fury of a million (this number is probably not an exaggeration) liberal bloggers who insist Lieberman must be punished for deserting Obama (who, ironically, helped campaign for Lieberman in his Senate race) and campaigning for McCain.  Lieberman actually spoke against Obama at the Republican National Convention, so if the Democrats let him keep the chairmanship, it probably means bad things about their collective political will.  On the other hand, if they strip Lieberman of his chairmanship, he is left in a bind about whether or not to defect to the Republicans, who are currently in the minority and can’t offer him much in the way of powerful positions.  All right, enough national news, it’s back to Alaska.
  • Also Tuesday, the Division of Elections should effectively finish counting ballots, though a few may trickle in on Wednesday.
  • Wednesday is the last day ballots can be received by the Division of Elections and still be counted.  Almost all races in the state (except for House District 7 between Kelly and Kassel, with its one vote margin) will be decided on Wednesday if not before.
  • Thursday and Friday… uh… okay, I don’t really have much for Thursday and Friday.  Oh yeah, if you’re a student at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, there are the student Senate elections on Thursday and Friday, but if you’re not a student, there’s really no reason for you to care.  In fact, even if you ARE a student, there’s really very little reason to care, as every seat has only one candidate running for it.  There’s even one seat- Senate Seat P- for which NO candidates will be on the ballot.  To highlight this travesty of disinterest in government, and also to make light of Alaska politics in general, I’ve started a campaign to write in Vic Vickers for ASUAF Senate Seat P.  As far as I know, Vic has no idea he’s a candidate, which will make my call to him on election day if he wins all the sweeter.  Who says politics can’t be fun?

All right, I’m done here for the night… check back on Monday to discover what I’ve been doing with my time such that I don’t update more often!

Alaska Is Different: Your Vote Counts November 14, 2008

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Division of Elections officials resumed counting ballots today, and trends with the ballots today largely followed the pattern established on Wednesday, with Mark Begich extending his lead to over 1,000 votes over Ted Stevens and leaders in other close races continuing to pad their margins.

There was one exception to the general lack of Friday drama, however…

In House District 7’s race, challenger Karl Kassel narrowed the gap between himself and Mike Kelly to… wait for it… ONE VOTE.  The count now stands at 4999 votes for Kassel, 5,000 votes for Kelly, and 36 write-ins.  If you ever wondered whether or not your vote could make a difference, look no further.

It’s important to note that it’s still possible for a few more absentee votes to trickle in before the Nov. 19 deadline, so the ending margin likely won’t be just one vote.  Also, no matter who is ahead after counting finishes, a recount appears inevitable.  Still, this race is a perfect example of exactly how important it is to perform your civic duty.

Ballot Counting – Interlude November 13, 2008

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Division of Elections officials count questioned ballots Wednesday.

Division of Elections officials count questioned ballots Wednesday.

Yesterday’s flurry of activity which saw Stevens lose the lead in his race when the day’s counting shifted the total by over 4,000 votes in Mark Begich’s direction.  Today is a day of comparative quiet, the “calm before the storm”.

The state will be counting ballots again tomorrow (Friday)- they plan to count the districts that they didn’t do on Wednesday. These are mostly in Anchorage, and all of them are districts that Begich won on election day. So it looks pretty good for Begich and a bit dire for Stevens, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see a recount demand and/or a lawsuit from the trailing party once all the ballots are counted.

The state will also be counting any at-large absentee ballots that have arrived between Wednesday and Friday, as well as any questioned ballots whose veracity has been determined. Those could go either way, and might even end up changing the balance in local races, such as the Kelly/Kassel race in District 7, where Kelly is hanging onto a 32-vote advantage.

The only people not holding their breath today are elections officials themselves, as they make determinations about questioned ballots under the watchful gaze of both Begich’s and Stevens’ campaign representatives.


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According to the Republicans’ spreadsheet, Ted Stevens lost 898 votes from his margin in the Fairbanks region. If you factor that into the Mat-Su numbers we got earlier, Begich is less than 200 votes down with Anchorage yet to report.

Mark Begich is the mayor of Anchorage. This one is going down to the wire.


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The Division of Elections just released new figures- Ted Stevens’ lead is now under 1000. This is BEFORE adding in the local numbers I’ve been reporting, and does not include Anchorage numbers either.

Things are looking a little more hopeful for Mark Begich.

No upset is in the cards in the Young/Berkowitz race, however… Young’s margin is holding steady. That one is over.

Stochastics: If Stevens Wins October 31, 2008

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There has been a bit of prognosticating in the comments about what might happen if Stevens were to:

  • Resign prior to the election
  • Win the election and then resign, or
  • Win the election and then be expelled from the Senate.

I’ll walk you through the process for each scenario.

  • If Stevens resigns prior to the election, Mark Begich will surely win his seat.  My guess, however, is that a good 25-35% of the electorate would still vote for Stevens as either a protest, a vote of confidence in Stevens’ innocence, or because they hadn’t heard about his resignation.
  • If Stevens wins the election and then resigns, Sarah Palin doesn’t have the blanket power to appoint his successor.  You may remember the widespread discontent with former Governor Frank Murkowski after he appointed his daughter Lisa to fill his vacant Senate seat.  The state legislature, in the wake of Frank’s nepotistic choice, changed the law to state that while the Governor can appoint an interim Senator or Representative to fill a vacancy, the state must hold a special election for the seat within 90 days.
  • If Stevens wins the election and is then removed by action of the Senate, the same scenario as above would play out: Palin (who would still be governor until January even if McCain wins) would appoint a  temporary replacement, then Alaskans would elect a new Senator within 90 days.


If we do end up holding a special election for Stevens’ seat, Mark Begich would almost certainly remain the Democratic candidate; the Republican replacement for Stevens is less certain.  My personal prediction would be Sean Parnell.  At this point it is extremely statistically unlikely that the McCain/Palin ticket will prevail in the presidential race, and Palin will therefore return as governor.  Some pundits think Palin might select herself as interim senator or declare that she intends to be the Republican candidate in the special election, but I think that would be a very unpopular decision, as it would recall Murkowski’s self-serving behavior.

Parnell seems a much stronger candidate to me, though I must say that I don’t find him a terribly inspiring speaker after hearing him speak about the economy earlier this week (I’ll post about that soon).  

In any case, at this point it’s all guesswork as to who the replacement Republican candidate would be if Stevens wins.  Post-conviction polls by Rasmussen and Research 2000 have Stevens down by 8% and 22% respectively, so perhaps none of this will come into play.  One thing Mark Begich and every other Alaskan know better than any poll result, however, is that you can never count Ted Stevens out.