Unity ticket defeats Alaska GOP Gov. Sean Parnell in drawn-out race

At long last, a victor in Alaska governor's race: independent Bill Walker

A novel unity ticket featuring independent Bill Walker and Democrat Byron Mallott has defeated Republican Gov. Sean Parnell of Alaska in an election so excruciatingly close that its outcome was not known until 10 days after the polls closed.

As of late Friday, Alaska elections officials said Walker and Mallott’s ticket received 47.9% of the vote to 46% for the incumbent Parnell. That amounted to a margin of less than 4,700 votes out of almost 270,000 cast. 

The Associated Press called the race late Friday.

The campaign itself was unusual: Mallott had won the Democratic nomination earlier this year, but he and Walker deduced that a three-person race would be won by Parnell, so the two formed a unity ticket.

The ticket put Walker in a one-on-one race against Parnell, with Mallott serving in the lieutenant governor position. Republicans, angered about the move, dismissed the unity package as a stunt.

But during the campaign, which often took a back seat to outrage over allegations of widespread sexual assault in the Alaska National Guard, which Parnell oversees.  The scandal drew voters’ attention in debates and town meetings.

On Wednesday, as Walker nursed his narrow lead, the governor issued a statement saying that he would “remain patient and await the outcome of this race.”

He had no immediate comment on Friday. Parnell became governor in 2009, when his predecessor Sarah Palin quit, and won the office outright a year later.

Even as the incumbent Republican was counseling patience, Walker and Mallott were moving ahead with their transition team, announcing its leaders on Wednesday.

They noted in a statement that the outcome was “not yet certain” but they were taking action due to the planned Dec. 1 swearing-in.

“We have begun the preliminary steps toward transition so that in the event Byron and I are sworn into office, that transition can be as smooth and efficient as possible,” Walker said.

Alaska also selected a new U.S. senator during Tuesday's election, replacing Democratic incumbent Mark Begich with Republican Dan Sullivan in a race decided by less than 7,800 votes.

For political news and analysis, follow me on Twitter: @cathleendecker 

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