Republican Mike Dunleavy won Alaska's governorship Tuesday over Democrat Mark Begich in a tight election mired with a mysterious controversy that forced out a third-party independent ticket.
The election was called early Wednesday after Dunleavy received 45 percent of the vote, to Begich's 37.5 percent, with 98 percent of precincts reporting. Libertarian William Toien received 15.8 percent of the vote.
Dunleavy resigned in January from the Alaska state Senate, where he had served since 2013, in order to run for governor. Begich served as the U.S. senator from Alaska from 2009 to 2015 and was the mayor of Anchorage from 2003 to 2009.
Mysterious independent shakeup
The race was roiled by controversy that turned a three-way competition into a one-to-one matchup when incumbent Gov. Bill Walker (I) quit his campaign three weeks before the election. This followed upon the resignation of Lt. Gov. Byron Mallot, who is a Democrat, from both the campaign ticket and his office a few days prior.
Although Walker tossed his support to Begich in the race, it wasn't enough to overcome Republicans rushing to the ballot box.
The circumstances that led to Mallot's resignation are still a mystery — he admitted to making inappropriate statements to an unidentified female, but no other details are known about the interaction.
"Byron recently made inappropriate comments that do not reflect the sterling level of behavior required in his role as Lieutenant Governor,” Gov. Walker said at the time. “Byron has taken full responsibility for his actions and has resigned."
Into October, Begich had raised $396,645 and spent $351,363, while Dunleavy had raised $327,586 and spent $315,498.
The Democratic Governors Association donated $500,000 to an anti-Dunleavy group, while the Republican Governors Association donated $2.7 million to a pro-Dunleavy group.
A tight race
After Walker and Mallot exited the race, polls showed the election tightening up, with Begich receiving 44 percent in one poll two weeks before the election, and Dunleavy receiving 48 percent of the vote.
Despite Walker's support for the Democrat, Dunleavy seized victory Tuesday evening.
If Republicans pick up just three seats in the state house elections, Alaska's government will be completely controlled by the GOP.