Alaska's longtime Republican Sen. Ted Stevens has been defeated in his bid for re-election.
Alaska election officials have been counting thousands of absentee ballots for the past two weeks, and only late Tuesday did it become clear that Stevens had lost, by a margin of only about 1 percent.
Stevens was defeated by Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich, who will be the first Alaskan Democrat in the Senate since the 1970s.
In previous elections, Stevens has usually cruised to re-election with big majorities — but this election was different. For two years, Alaskans have watched as federal authorities have investigated corruption in their state politics.
This summer, when Stevens was indicted for hiding gifts from an oil executive, he told voters he would vindicate himself, and he demanded a speedy trial. He was convicted eight days before Election Day.
Still, many Alaskans were reluctant to vote against Stevens because of his 40-year record in the Senate, during which he brought back billions in federal spending to his home state.
When the returns came in on Nov. 4, Stevens had a lead of 3,000 votes. But Alaskans set a record this year with the number of absentee ballots and early-voting ballots, which took a while to filter in — especially ballots from troops and other Alaskans living overseas. As of late Tuesday night, Stevens was trailing Begich by 3,724 votes.
Begich is the son of Nick Begich, who represented Alaska in the House of Representatives until he disappeared in a plane crash in 1972. Also on the plane were then-House Majority Leader Hale Boggs of Louisiana and two other people. The wreckage was never found.
Begich is a pro-union, pro-gun Democrat and, like many Alaska politicians, he supports drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.