Alaska News

Al Gross concedes Alaska U.S. Senate race to Dan Sullivan

Al Gross called Sen. Dan Sullivan at 10 a.m. Friday to congratulate him on defending his seat, ending one of the most expensive races in state history.

The news came on Sullivan’s 56th birthday.

In a Friday afternoon news conference, Sullivan thanked his campaign staff and volunteers for pulling off a win during a pandemic.

Sullivan said when running as an incumbent, it’s more about what he did for the past six years in office than the final six months of campaign ads. He said he won because of his record on building up the military and opening parts of Alaska up for resource development.

“Campaigns are ultimately about your record and vision, and I think what we tried to do was lay out a positive vision to build on the record and successes we had, and I think people are attracted to that,” he said.

Votes are still being counted, but Gross trailed Sullivan by more than 13 percentage points on Saturday: 54% to 41%, with Alaskan Independence Party candidate John Wayne Howe at 5%.

The two men spent the past year in a contentious race, often lobbing attacks at each other in interviews and debates. Allegations of corruption and lies abounded.

But even after being transformed from a political unknown to a household name, Gross failed to gain enough support.

“I’m incredibly proud of the campaign we ran,” Gross said in a statement Friday. “We were the underdogs from the start, but we ran a strong campaign and raised important issues that deserved to be heard.”

The latest vote counts, released Saturday afternoon, have Sullivan leading Gross by more than 45,000 votes, and about 17,000 votes are left to count. A Gross comeback was already a mathematical impossibility earlier in the final days of counting, and many national networks and the Associated Press called the race Wednesday.

Gross, an independent running with the Democratic nomination, said he would not be beholden to either party, but would caucus with Democrats. As a former orthopedic surgeon, his main platform was health care reform.

During the campaign, Gross was picked by Lower 48 progressives as one of the candidates that could help flip the U.S. Senate to Democrats. In its final months, his campaign received an infusion of cash from Outside groups. The money went both directly to his campaign and was independently spent to his benefit.

The spending, almost $14 million as of two weeks before the election, was prolific. However, as of Saturday afternoon, Gross had received 137,808 votes. Alyse Galvin, another independent running as the Democratic nominee who challenged Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, for his U.S. House seat, had 150,937 votes and conceded Friday.

Galvin spent under $4 million, according to the most recent campaign finance reports. With Young and Sullivan getting about the same number of votes, the biggest difference for the two challengers appeared not to be the flood of money for Gross, but his third-party challenger Howe. Howe peeled off nearly 16,000 votes, most coming from Gross.

In his concession statement, Gross congratulated Sullivan on the win.

“Even though we have passionate policy disagreements on what is best for Alaska, what is important now is that all Alaskans come together after a free and fair election,” he said.