Berkowitz concedes race to Young

November 19, 2008 

The winner of the race for Alaska's sole House seat wasn't really in doubt after Election Day, when longtime incumbent Rep. Don Young led Democratic challenger Ethan Berkowitz by more than 16,000 votes.

It still took Berkowitz until Tuesday afternoon, with the counting of nearly all the outstanding ballots, to concede defeat to Republican Young. His spokesman, David Shurtleff, noted that more than 90,000 votes have been counted since Nov. 4, enough to turn the tide. Berkowitz didn't want to slight any voter who may have waited in the cold or voted absentee while at war, Shurtleff said.

Tuesday's tally shows 141,754 votes for Berkowitz and 158,034 for Young. With the Alaskan Independence Party candidate, Don Wright, factored in, the vote breaks down this way: 50 percent for Young, 45 percent for Berkowitz, and 5 percent for Wright.

Berkowitz called and congratulated Young and his wife, Lu, on a 19th term in Congress.

"I'm proud we ran a race that elevated the quality and tone of a campaign, and one that focused on issues and values," Berkowitz said in a written statement. He said he'll continue to work for Alaska on issues including health care, energy costs and the economy.

Pollsters had counted Young out but they were wrong.

"I am humbled and grateful to the people of Alaska for their show of support in this election year -- both in the primary and the general elections," Young said in a written statement.

Berkowitz ran a good race, Young said.

"No doubt, Ethan has a very bright future ahead of him," Young said.

Young said he'll use his seniority on the Natural Resources and Transportation committees to help Alaska. He said he'll try again to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling. And Congress will be working on a new national highway bill that will fund transportation projects for six years.

He also outlined tough work ahead on the financial crisis. Congress cannot "just throw taxpayer dollars at poorly managed industries," Young said in his statement.

Berkowitz noted that he got more votes than any Democrat challenging Young in the state's history. While Democrat Diane Benson made a good run in 2006, in the three general elections before that, Young claimed 70 percent of the vote or better.

Still, one Democrat came closer than Berkowitz in terms of the percentage of the total. Back in 1990, former Valdez Mayor John Devens nearly squeaked by the incumbent, taking 48 percent of the vote in a two-way race.

The Election Day gap between Young and Berkowitz narrowed slightly as additional ballots were counted in the last two weeks.

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