A Republican is headed back to Alaska's executive branch.

Former state Sen. Mike Dunleavy, is poised to succeed incumbent independent Gov. Bill Walker. The incumbent suspended his campaign Oct. 19, saying he didn't think he could win a three-way race featuring him, Dunleavy and Democratic challenger Mark Begich.

In a statement declaring victory over Begich, Dunleavy thanked his supporters "from the bottom of my heart."

“Over these past four years, too many Alaskans have been shut out of the big decisions facing our state – from changes to the Permanent Fund to crime policy to addressing the state’s budget deficit," Dunleavy said. "Elections remind us that in our system of government the people rule, and today the people made their voices heard."

Just after 11 a.m. the following day, Mark Begich conceded defeat in an emailed statement:

Earlier this morning I spoke with Mike Dunleavy to congratulate him on being Alaska’s next Governor. While we have many differences, we are Alaskans first. That is why I let him know that I stand ready to help move Alaska forward and create a better future for all Alaskans. The stakes are too high for divisive politics or policies and we must come together and put the future of our state above all else. I would encourage all Alaskans to stay engaged and make your voice heard because I know that if we work together, our best days will always be ahead of us.

Mid-morning Wednesday, Walker tweeted his congratulations to Dunleavy.

 Begich had been optimistic about his chances Tuesday evening.

“I’ve always run close races, so I expect it to be close,” Begich said. “But I tell you, when I look around here the amount of people who have come forward to see Alaska they want to see, I think they’re ready to see an Alaskan; that’s why I’m here born and raised Democrat, born and raised in this state as an Alaskan. What’s great about Alaska is they elect whoever is the best person, and I think I am that person.”

Dunleavy held a 10-percentage-point lead over Begich with 83 percent of the districts counted, a lead that held steady since the Division of Elections released the earliest returns.

A Dunleavy victory means Republicans regain the spot after a four-year absence of residing at the governor’s mansion. Republicans held the office for 12 years spanning terms won by Frank Murkowski, Sarah Palin and Sean Parnell.  But in 2014, the job went to Walker, who narrowly upset Parnell in his bid for a second full term.

A Begich victory would have meant another four years that a Republican would not claimed an executive branch victory. He would have also been be the first Democrat to win in 20 years when Tony Knowles won in 1998.

For nearly four months, this year’s contest was a three-way race with Walker and Begich facing constant pressure to withdraw; otherwise Dunleavy runs away with a decisive win. Once Walker stepped down, Begich and Dunleavy then focused on criticizing each other’s plans for a Permanent Fund dividend payout to Alaskans.

Dunleavy supports a dividend that aligns with the statutory formula, a calculation which Walker then the Legislature ignored and approved a reduced amount for three straight years.

Begich said he wanted the dividend enshrined in the state’s constitution, while using a portion of the Permanent Fund earnings toward public education.

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