By Congresspedia assistant editor Avelino Maestas
More than a week has passed since Election Day, but there are still five House and three Senate races in play, and the balance of power in Washington hinges on their outcomes. The closest races are currently in Alaska and Minnesota, where two sitting senators are defending their seats against strong challenges. Notably, two of the incumbents in undecided races are under federal investigation (Don Young and William Jefferson) and one (Ted Stevens) is awaiting sentencing on felony corruption charges.
Outstanding Senate races:
In Alaska, Sen. Ted Stevens is trailing Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich by less than 1,000 votes, a reversal of fortune since Stevens' early lead before the state began counting about 74,000 absentee and questionable ballots. Only half the ballots have been counted, however, so it's still anyone's race.
That Stevens is even still in the race is a testament to his standing in the Last Frontier. He’s the longest-serving Republican in the Senate and has represented Alaska in Congress since 1968. He’s also a convicted (though not yet sentenced) felon – a federal jury handed down a guilty verdict on seven counts of lying on personal finance disclosure forms just days before the election.
Should Stevens pull out the victory, he could plausibly serve for several more years as his appeal winds through the courts. The Senate could expel him from the body with a 2/3 majority vote, which is not unlikely considering that several of his colleagues on both sides of the aisle have publicly called for his resignation, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). It would then fall to Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin to appoint a temporary replacement until a special election, mandated by state law to occur within 90 days, could be held to fill the remainder of the term.