Young wins primary as Parnell concedes and declines recount

Alaska Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell decided not to pursue a recount of his 304-vote primary loss to Rep. Don YoungDonald (Don) Edwin YoungThanks to President Biden, infrastructure is bipartisan again — it needs to stay that way Biden signs trillion infrastructure bill into law Republican governors mostly silent on infrastructure bill MORE (R), conceding the race Thursday and setting up one of the toughest defenses for House Republicans this cycle.

Parnell said in a statement that he trusts the state Division of Elections’ original count and does not want to waste more tax money on re-tallying the votes.

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“If I thought there was anything wrong, inappropriate or unprofessional about the way this election tally was conducted, I would not only call for a recount, I would demand one,” Parnell said. “But that is not the case here.

“As such, I do not believe it justifies an expenditure of taxpayer funds.”

Young came out on top when the Division of Elections announced the final vote count Wednesday. The primary was held Aug. 26 but has been too close to call ever since, as both sides have waited for absentee ballots to be counted.

A candidate has the right to request a state-funded recount if the margin of victory is less than half a percent. The 304-vote margin, out of more than 100,000 votes cast, is less than a 0.3 percent margin.

Young, a 35-year incumbent, declared victory Wednesday, assuming a magnanimous tone and turning his efforts toward the general election, where he will face former state Rep. Ethan Berkowitz (D).

“Sean will continue to be a key leader in our state for years to come,” Young said. “I am chomping at the bit to return home and work hard for reelection. I have much respect for Ethan Berkowitz and am confident that we will focus on issue-oriented campaigns.”

Young’s win comes as bad news for the national GOP, which appeared to be in much better shape with Parnell as its nominee.

With a federal investigation hanging over his head, Young trails Berkowitz by double digits in early polling on the race, while Parnell had polled even or ahead.

{mospagebreak}Berkowitz led Young, 54-37, in the most recent Ivan Moore Research poll, which is conducted independently for local news media.

As of their pre-primary reports in early August, Young held a wide advantage in cash on hand — $370,000 to $95,000. But Young has also been spending heavily on his legal defense and faced the tougher primary, meaning that advantage could be significantly smaller now.

Berkowitz quickly moved in on supporters of Parnell and state Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux (R), who took 9 percent in the GOP primary.

“The lieutenant governor and Rep. LeDoux fought hard to bring positive change to Alaska’s seat in Congress,” Berkowitz said. “I want their supporters to know that they still have that chance. Together, we will finish what your campaigns started.”

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Young’s win is also bad news for a GOP that is already running one embattled candidate in the state — indicted Sen. Ted Stevens (R). Young is also facing a federal investigation into his ties to Veco Corp., but he has not been indicted.

Gov. Sarah Palin, the GOP vice presidential nominee who has railed against the old guard in Alaska and backed her lieutenant in the House primary, will now be faced with a pair of difficult situations with her home-state candidates.

The McCain-Palin campaign hasn’t responded to requests about whether Palin will back Stevens.

Parnell was quick to note that he remains in a potent position in the state — especially considering that if the GOP ticket of Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainGOP senators appalled by 'ridiculous' House infighting MSNBC's Nicolle Wallace, Chris Christie battle over Fox News Trump's attacks on McConnell seen as prelude to 2024 White House bid MORE (Ariz.) and Palin wins in November, he would be elevated to the state’s top executive.

“It is a great honor to serve as Alaska’s lieutenant governor, and I take my responsibilities in that office very seriously,” he said. “Those responsibilities are heightened even more with the exciting possibility that Gov. Palin might become the next vice president of the United States.”