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Lisa Murkowski announces write-in bid for Senate

Updated 11:24 p.m.

By Aaron Blake

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who lost a primary last month, announced tonight that she is mounting a write-in campaign for reelection.

In telling supporters in Anchorage of her decision, Murkowski said they convinced her to attempt a difficult return to the Senate.

"Today, my friends, my campaign for Alaska's future begins," she said, citing the support of longtime former senator Ted Stevens (R), who recently died in a plane crash. "I announce today that I will be a write-in candidate for the United States Senate seat that I now hold."

Murkowski added, "The easier route for me personally would be to accept the results of this primary and put me and my family first, and I gave that very serious consideration. ... But I looked into my heart, and I said, 'where is my heart,' and my heart is Alaska. I cannot leave you."

As she made her announcement, leading Republicans in Washington turned their back on Murkowski, with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) announcing that she "no longer has my support for serving in any leadership roles, and I have accepted her letter of resignation from Senate leadership."

Murkowski has reportedly labored over her options in recent weeks. After announcing this week that she would no longer attempt to convince the state Libertarian Party to give her its nomination, she acknowledged that running a write-in campaign posted plenty of difficulties. Election experts strain to think of a candidate mounting a successful write-in campaign, though Murkowski does have a leg up, given her large war chest and incumbency.

Along with her own difficult path, though, her campaign could jeopardize the seat for Republicans.

Murkowski and attorney Joe Miller (R) could potentially split the GOP vote, which might open the door for Sitka Mayor Scott McAdams, the Democratic nominee. However, a recent poll from Dittman Research showed Murkowski leading Miller 37 percent to 31 percent in a three-way matchup. McAdams was at 19 percent and barely raised any money during the primary campaign.

Republicans have rallied behind Miller since his primary win and tried to dissuade Murkowski from jumping back in the race. After those efforts failed, McConnell asked her to resign as vice chair of the Senate Republican Conference, the GOP's fifth-highest-ranking leadership role.

McConnell and other Republican leaders also publicly announced their full support of Miller in the upcoming election.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.), who leads the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said he was "deeply disappointed" in Murkowski's decision and added that Miller would have "all of the resources that he needs in order to win this November."

Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Robert Menendez said in a statement this afternoon that the situation is another example of the GOP "cannibalizing" itself.

"Alaska voters now have three options in November: a Washington insider who supports the failed economic policies of the past, an extremist who wants to end Social Security and Medicare, and a small-town mayor who would put Alaskan families first," Menendez said in a statement.

In his own statement, McAdams took a shot at both Miller and Murkowski, saying, "The partisan bickering, political grandstanding, and special interest bailouts don't get results for Alaska. The negative campaign Alaskans endured over the last several months is just more of the same."

Murkowski was preceded onstage tonight by Democratic supporters -- a potential preview of who she will try to appeal to in the campaign.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee noted tonight that Democratic leaders still have yet to commit resources to the race, and after the primary, didn't seem to know what their candidate's name even was.

"In fact, considering his name is conspicuously absent from their release, one wonders if our friends across the aisle have been so busy trying to spin beltway pundits on perceived divisions within the GOP that they still don't know what it is," NRSC spokesman Brian Walsh said.

Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin (R), who supported Miller in the primary, said in a tweet that Murkowski is disrespecting the voters' will.

"Primary voters spoke," Palin said. "Listen to the people, respect their will; w/a 40-pt incumbent lead & $2.8 million war chest, voters chose Joe instead."

By Aaron Blake  | September 17, 2010; 7:34 PM ET
Categories:  Senate  
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