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Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski wins write-in bid

Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski has won her reelection bid, staging a successful write-in candidacy

The Associated Press has called the Alaska Senate race for Sen. Lisa Murkowski, a victory that would make her the first senator since 1954 and only the second in history to win a write-in campaign.

Murkowski, who lost an August primary to tea party candidate Joe Miller, led Miller by more than 10,000 votes after three weeks of vote-counting. All write-in ballots have been counted, and the counting of absentee ballots was set to conclude Wednesday.

Miller has reportedly asked for a hand recount, casting doubt on the electronic voting system used by the state. But as of right now, he stands little chance of overcoming the senator.

Miller's campaign has challenged about 8,000 write-in ballots that have been counted in Murkowski's favor and has asked for elections officials to exclude ballots where Murkowski's name is misspelled. Even if every one of those ballots was disqualified -- a very unlikely scenario -- Murkowski would still have a lead of 2,500 votes or so.

Shortly after AP called the race, Miller said on Fox News that he may still move for a recount.

"The voters in the state of Alaska expect there to be integrity in the process," Miller said. "We are going to pursue that.

"We want to make sure we do what we said we were going to do last week, and that is wait for those military ballots to come in. We'll evaluate at that time."

Murkowski was heading home Wednesday and was scheduled to hold an event in Anchorage this evening where she may declare victory.

A Murkowski win would make her the first senator since South Carolina's Strom Thurmond to run a successful write-in bid for Senate. Her hand was forced by a stunning loss in the Aug. 24 primary to Miller, who benefited heavily from the support of former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

Murkowski quickly pivoted to a write-in candidacy, hoping to capitalize on her well known last name -- her father, Frank, was a former governor and senator from the Last Frontier -- discontent among the broader electorate with Miller.

Miller helped Murkowski's cause with a gaffe-ridden general election campaign that included a high-profile incident where he had a member of his security retinue detain a journalist.

On Election Day, "write-in candidates" took 92,979 (40.1 percent) while Miller received 82,180 (35.5 percent) and Democrat Scott McAdams received 54,147 (23.4 percent). Ninety-seven percent of those write-in votes went to Murkowski.

The Alaska race is the last outstanding Senate contest in the country, but it won't have any bearing on the current balance of power. Both Murkowski and Miller are Republicans, though national Republicans supported Miller since he was the nominee of their party.

Assuming Murkowski would continue to caucus with Republicans -- as she has repeatedly promised -- the GOP faces a six-seat minority, with 47 GOP senators, compared to 51 Democrats and two independents who caucus with Democrats.

By Aaron Blake  | November 17, 2010; 3:15 PM ET
Categories:  Senate  
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