GOP’s Sullivan defeats Gross in Alaska Senate race

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Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan won reelection in Alaska, brushing aside a challenge from independent Al Gross, who was backed by Democrats.

The state has long been a Republican stronghold, though many voters in Alaska don’t belong to a party. The last time voters there backed a Democratic presidential candidate was in 1964. Alaska has elected one Democratic senator in four decades: Mark Begich, who served one term before losing to Sullivan in 2014.

But despite Alaska’s strong Republican lean in presidential politics and most other major campaigns, it does have a history of electing independents and party-bucking Democrats, too, and the race between Sullivan and Gross appeared to grow surprisingly close. President Donald Trump’s polling numbers dipped in Alaska in the fall, and Gross was able to close the gap enough to draw national attention to the race — and attract unprecedented amounts of funding.

A Democratic super PAC dropped $4 million into the race, and Gross announced that his campaign raised $9 million in the final quarter of the campaign, a staggering sum for Alaska. On the GOP side, Senate Leadership Fund — the super PAC run by allies of Majority Leader Mitch McConnell — poured a last-minute $3.7 million into the state, bringing its total investment in Alaska to $5.3 million.

Sparse public polling largely had Sullivan leading, often within the margin of error. Voters reported trusting Gross — a doctor who left his full-time practice in 2013 — more on matters of health care, though Sullivan said at the candidates’ Oct. 24 debate that Gross has “no credibility” on health care issues and accused him of profiting off Alaskans.

Sullivan voted to confirm President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Amy Coney Barrett, days before the election. Gross opposed the nomination, citing concerns over abortion and the Affordable Care Act.

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