Election workers, from left, Lorraine Derr, David Clover, Deborah Craig and Mel Perkins,  help count ballots cast during the Nov. 4 general election on Tuesday, Nov. 11, 2014, in Juneau, Alaska. Officials on Tuesday began counting absentee, early-voted and questioned ballots remaining from the election. (AP Photo/Becky Bohrer)

Election workers, from left, Lorraine Derr, David Clover, Deborah Craig and Mel Perkins, help count ballots cast during the Nov. 4 general election on Tuesday, Nov. 11, 2014, in Juneau, Alaska. Officials on Tuesday began counting absentee, early-voted and questioned ballots remaining from the election. (AP Photo/Becky Bohrer)

Walker continues to lead in governor’s race

  • By Rachel D'oro
  • Tuesday, November 11, 2014 10:54pm
  • News

ANCHORAGE — Independent candidate Bill Walker widened his slim lead over Republican Gov. Sean Parnell Tuesday in Alaska’s tight gubernatorial race.

Alaska elections workers began counting more than 53,000 absentee and questioned ballots Tuesday.

With a little less than one-third of those ballots counted by early evening, Walker was ahead by nearly 4,000 votes over Parnell among all ballots counted since the Nov. 4 election.

The race remained too close to call, however.

Elections director Gail Fenumiai said votes also will be counted Friday, and then Monday through Wednesday as necessary.

Also being closely watched is Alaska’s U.S. Senate race. On election night, Republican challenger Dan Sullivan led first-term Democratic Sen. Mark Begich by about 8,100 votes. Sullivan maintained that margin as the counting continued Tuesday evening.

No outcome is considered official until the election certification, which is targeted for Nov. 28, Fenumiai said.

In the governor’s race, representatives for both campaigns were monitoring the count of remaining ballots.

“The governor’s going to respect the process until every Alaskan’s vote is counted,” Parnell spokesman Luke Miller said Tuesday.

Meanwhile, with the possibility of victory, Walker is in the preliminary stages of forming a transition team “to create a roadmap” for a new administration, spokeswoman Lindsay Hobson said.

Parnell initially was considered the favorite in the race over Walker, who finished second behind Parnell in the 2010 Republican gubernatorial primary. Walker bypassed this year’s primary after opting to gather signatures to qualify as an unaffiliated candidate.

The race tightened after Walker merged his campaign with that of Byron Mallott, who won the Democratic primary in August. To join campaigns with Mallott, Walker dropped his membership in the Alaskan Republican Party. The “unity ticket” was seen as providing a more formidable challenge to Parnell.

During the campaign, Parnell also was dogged by criticism that he did too little too late in handling allegations of sexual abuse within the Alaska National Guard that emerged in 2010.

Walker was criticized by Parnell as having contradictory views and no specific plans. Parnell and his supporters also questioned the merged campaign, asking how a social conservative, such as Walker, could govern with a more liberal second-in-command.

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