- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 12, 2014

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - Independent candidate Bill Walker widened his lead over Republican Gov. Sean Parnell in Alaska’s tight gubernatorial race.

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

With about 20,000 of those ballots counted by late Tuesday evening, Walker was ahead by about 4,000 votes over Parnell among all ballots counted since the Nov. 4 election.

The Associated Press will not be calling the Alaska race for governor until more absentee and questioned votes are counted. Elections director Gail Fenumiai said votes also will be counted Friday, and then Monday through Wednesday as necessary.

In another closely contested contest for Alaska’s U.S. Senate seat, Republican challenger Dan Sullivan defeated first-term Democratic Sen. Mark Begich on Tuesday.

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, who is the candidate on the ticket for lieutenant governor, Walker dropped his membership in the Alaskan Republican Party. The so-called 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.


Follow Rachel D’Oro at https://twitter.com/rdoro.

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