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Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) conceded his reelection race to Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich (D) on Wednesday afternoon, averting a potential recount and solidifying a seventh takeover for Senate Democrats.

Stevens congratulated Begich, who less than a half-hour earlier told reporters that he had not heard from the incumbent.

Begich’s win was called by The Associated Press on Tuesday night and hands Democrats a 58th seat, with two GOP-held seats still outstanding. A large portion of absentee ballots delayed the result.

Stevens’s campaign said in a statement: “Given the number of ballots that remain to be counted, it is apparent the election has been decided and Mayor Begich has been elected.

“My family and I wish to thank the thousands of Alaskans who stood by us and who supported my reelection. It was a tough fight that would not have been possible without the help of so many Alaskans — people who I am honored to call my friends. I will always remember their thoughts, prayers and encouragement.

“I am proud of the campaign we ran and regret that the outcome was not what we had hoped for. I am deeply grateful to Alaskans for allowing me to serve them for 40 years in the U.S. Senate. It has been the greatest honor of my life to work with Alaskans of all political persuasions to make this state that we all love a better place.

“I wish Mayor Begich and his family well. My staff and I stand willing to help him prepare for his new position.”

The Hill

The Democratic pursuit of the magic number of Senate seats received new life when Ted Stevens lost his Senate seat. AP

The Democratic pursuit of the magic number of Senate seats received new life when Ted Stevens lost his Senate seat. AP

The Democratic pursuit of 60 Senate seats received new life Tuesday night after Alaska Democrat Mark Begich was declared the winner against Ted Stevens, the longest-serving Republican in the Senate.

Begich defeated the Senate giant by a 3,724-vote margin after absentee and early votes were counted, a stunning end to a 40-year Senate career marred by Stevens’ conviction on corruption charges a week before the election.

Begich’s victory gives Democrats their 58th Senate seat, with the party still awaiting a pending recount in the too-close-to-call Minnesota Senate race and the Georgia Senate runoff next month. If Democrats win those two seats, they will reach a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate.

Democratic prospects of reaching 60 seats didn’t look so bright the day after the election. In Alaska, Stevens led Begich by more than 3,000 votes. In Minnesota, Republican Sen. Norm Coleman was holding a narrow lead. GOP Sen. Gordon Smith had not yet been declared the loser in the Oregon Senate race and in Georgia, Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss was just over the 50 percent mark necessary to win re-election in Georgia.

But over the ensuing two weeks, the landscape began to tilt in the Democrats’ favor. The Associated Press declared Jeff Merkley the winner over Smith in Oregon, Coleman’s lead shrank to 215 votes, Chambliss fell just short of the 50 percent threshold necessary for an outright victory, and Begich captured a majority of the nearly 90,000 absentee and early votes that were counted after Election Day to win the Alaska Senate seat.

Now, with the prospect of 60 Senate seats hanging in the balance, both parties are throwing everything they can at the two remaining undeclared races, pouring money, lawyers and field organizers into Georgia and Minnesota.

Developments on the ground suggest Democrats have a fighting chance of picking up both seats.

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December 2019
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