This Jan. 16 photo shows Alaska state Rep. Scott Kawasaki, a Fairbanks Democrat, talking on a telephone before the start of the legislative session at the state Capitol in Juneau. (AP Photo/Mark Thiessen, File)

This Jan. 16 photo shows Alaska state Rep. Scott Kawasaki, a Fairbanks Democrat, talking on a telephone before the start of the legislative session at the state Capitol in Juneau. (AP Photo/Mark Thiessen, File)

Kawasaki appears to upset Kelly in Alaska Senate race

JUNEAU (AP) — Republican Alaska Senate President Pete Kelly appears to have lost his re-election bid but told The Associated Press Friday that he’s leaving open the option of a recount.

Ballots tallied Friday show Democratic Rep. Scott Kawasaki widening his lead to 173 votes in the Fairbanks race.

As of Friday afternoon, the Division of Elections said it had the potential to receive 50 ballots from military or overseas addresses; that grouping is not broken out. Friday was the deadline for the state to receive absentee ballots mailed from within the U.S. Wednesday is the deadline to receive ballots from overseas addresses.

A win by Kawasaki would leave Republicans with 13 of the Senate’s 20 seats. Democrats, however, held out some hope that a bipartisan coalition could be formed.

Meanwhile, in the House race to replace Kawasaki, Republican Bart LeBon held a 5-vote lead over Democrat Kathryn Dodge. The lead in that race has gone back and forth as ballots have been counted.

Republicans last week rushed to claim control of the House, saying they had a minimum of 21 members for a new majority, assuming a win by LeBon. The current House speaker, Democrat Bryce Edgmon, said the move was premature.

The House has been held the last two years by a coalition composed largely of Democrats.

Jay Parmley, executive director of the Alaska Democratic party, said Democrats knew the race against Kelly would be tough. The race was expensive and hard fought.

“We just couldn’t be more thrilled to not only pick up a seat but to pick up this seat,” Parmley said. Kawasaki did not immediately return a message.

Kelly, a long-time legislator who during his career also served in the House, was known as a staunch conservative voice. In 2017, he was outspoken in opposing an income tax that the state House passed as a way to help address the state’s fiscal challenges.

“As I’ve said many times, the only thing standing between Alaskans and an income tax is the Senate,” he said at the time. The Senate killed the bill.

On Friday, Kelly said he would not rule out a recount. He noted there are still more ballots to come in.

“I’m kind of accepting the numbers as final, but any kind of legal path forward, as far as recounts and those kinds of things I haven’t made a decision on those,” Kelly said.

He said he’s glad the race is over. “I’ve got a whole bunch of things I need to do that don’t include going down to Juneau,” he said.

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