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NBC News Projects Dan Sullivan Apparent Winner of Alaska Senate Race

NBC News projects that Republican Dan Sullivan is the apparent winner of Alaska's U.S. Senate race, with the GOP challenger defeating first-term incumbent Democrat Mark Begich.

Sullivan, a former Alaska attorney general and first-time Senate candidate, holds an edge of over 8,000 votes as ballots continue to be counted. Begich has not conceded.

Sullivan's win boosts GOP gains in the upper chamber to eight seats.

Begich barely pulled out a one-point victory in 2008 over long-time Republican incumbent Sen. Ted Stevens, who was convicted eight days before the election on seven felony accounts. And that was in a year that was good for Democrats across the country.

Six years later, Begich faced another tough race against Sullivan. Polling in the state had showed Sullivan in the lead since mid-August, though both Republicans and Democrats admitted that polling is very difficult in the vast, rural state.

Sullivan tied Begich to President Barack Obama, a charge the Democrat tried to deflect. Obama is not popular the state, where he won just 41 percent of the vote in 2012. In the final week of the campaign, Begich dealt with controversy involving Alaska’s other Senator, Lisa Murkowski. After she asked him to stop using her picture in a campaign ad, he dismissed her request and said her objection was only due to the fact that she didn’t like how she looked in the photo.

- NBC News Political Unit