Who will be governor of Alaska next year?

Republican presidential nominee John McCain’s surprise selection of Gov. Sarah Palin last week as his running mate means the question may be more than hypothetical.

That’s because Palin’s lieutenant governor, Sean Parnell, is also running for a Washington office.

Parnell challenged incumbent Rep. Don Young in last week’s Republican primary for the state’s seat in the U.S. House, and the outcome remains too close to call more than a week later.

Young was just 151 votes ahead of Parnell out of 93,566 votes counted in the first, unofficial tabulation.

“While I am pleased to be slightly ahead at this point, I know that this will likely be a long process that won’t be resolved until sometime in September,” Young said in a statement last week. “I anticipate that the results will remain extremely close and an automatic recount will be requested by whichever candidate is trailing after the Sept. 5 tabulation.”

Parnell said he estimated that 4,000 absentee votes remained to be counted after election night. The winner of the GOP primary faces Democrat Ethan Berkowitz in November.

What happens if voters send both Palin and Parnell to Washington? Attorney General Talis Colberg would become acting governor for about two months until a special election decides the next governor.

Colberg would become lieutenant governor if either Palin or Parnell wins and the other doesn’t.

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