By Cathleen Decker
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 election officials said Walker and Mallott's ticket had received 47.9 percent of the vote to 46 percent for the incumbent. That amounted to a margin of fewer 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 in the lieutenant governor position. Republicans, angered about the move, dismissed the unity package as a stunt.
But during the campaign, that 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 was nursing his narrow lead, the governor issued a statement saying that he would "remain patient and await the outcome of this race." Parnell became governor in 2009, when his predecessor, Sarah Palin, quit, and won the office in an election 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 that they were taking action because of the planned Dec. 1 swearing-in.
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 fewer than 7,800 votes.
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