Stevens loses ground in Alaska balloting

Nov. 15, 2008 at 12:33 PM

ANCHORAGE, Alaska, Nov. 15 (UPI) -- U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, was poised to lose his re-election bid as his Democratic challenger saw his lead grow in ballot counting, analysts said.

Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich's lead over Stevens widened to 1,022 votes Friday after absentee and questioned ballots from an area near Anchorage -- considered to be Stevens' best shot at a comeback -- were counted, the Anchorage Daily News reported.

Ballots counted Friday were cast in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, which includes the Wasilla, Alaska, home of Gov. Sarah Palin and where Stevens has enjoyed strong support, analysts told the newspaper. Instead of giving Stevens the lead as some Republican Party officials had predicted, Begich's margin increased by more than 200 votes.

"I think that was where (Stevens') best bet was, but also parts of the Kenai (Peninsula) are out still," Alaska Democratic Party spokeswoman Bethany Lesser told the Daily News. "I wouldn't rule out the fact that this is likely to narrow a little still."

About 24,000 ballots were yet to be counted, with all expected to be tallied by Tuesday. A loss by Stevens would put the Democratic Party closer to a filibuster-proof 60 seats in the U.S. Senate.

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