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Stevens falls further behind rival

With 17,100 more Alaska ballots counted, Democrat Mark Begich widens his lead. The count will go on.

November 15, 2008|Associated Press

ASSOCIATED PRESS ANCHORAGE — Republican Sen. Ted Stevens, a stalwart of Alaska politics who was convicted of felony charges last month, fell further behind his Democratic rival Friday, and most remaining ballots come from parts of the state that have favored the challenger.

Mark Begich, the two-term mayor of Anchorage, increased his lead from 814 votes to 1,022 as state election workers counted 17,100 ballots. Begich had 47.4% of the vote to Stevens' 47.0%.

"With the gap widening slightly in our favor today, I feel even more optimistic that when all the ballots are counted next week, we'll see Alaskans came out to vote for new leadership in Washington, D.C.," Begich said in a statement.

The 25,000 remaining votes will be counted Tuesday. They come mostly from Anchorage and the surrounding area, where Begich is leading, and from the state's southeastern panhandle, where he was doing even better.

Stevens, 84, is seeking his seventh term in the Senate, where he has served since 1968. He's renowned for bringing federal funding home to Alaska -- as well as for wearing his Incredible Hulk tie when the going gets rough in Congress.

But last month he was convicted by a federal jury in Washington, D.C., of lying on Senate disclosure forms to conceal more than $250,000 in gifts and home renovations from an oil field services company.

About 5,000 of the votes tallied Friday came from the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, a conservative area north of Anchorage that's home to Gov. Sarah Palin.

Stevens has been leading in that area 2 to 1.

Also counted were votes from the interior city of Fairbanks and surrounding areas, where Stevens has a slight lead, and the vast Alaska bush, where Begich is winning easily.

Stevens' campaign didn't return calls seeking comment.

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