The AP, MSNBC, ACVDN and the count of the voters write in ballots project Lisa Murkowski to Wins Alaska Senate Race. Murkowski Becomes First Incumbent Senator in U.S. History to Wage a Successful Write-In Campaign.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski defied the odds and defeated her Republican opponent Joe Miller to become the first incumbent, and only the second person in history to wage a successful write-in campaign for a U.S. Senate seat.
The Associated Press projected the incumbent senator will win the Alaska Senate race, beating Miller, the Tea Party favorite, who was backed by Fox TV host Sarah Palin.
In a historic election that pitted Republicans against Republicans, Murkowski emerged victorious by a narrow margin. As of Tuesday evening, Murkowski had won more than 90 percent of the write-in votes and had a lead of more than 10,000 votes over Miller.
Despite her lead, Miller today refused to concede, saying he is “less cautiously optimistic” but he will wait until military ballots from overseas are counted to make a final decision. Miller assailed the elections division, questioning whether the agency sent out military ballots in a timely manner. He is also challenging the decision to count ballots that were misspelled, but which election officials say showed voter intent.
“We also want to make sure going forward the state of Alaska imposed the statutory standard, that we don’t end up having in the future the same sort of thing we had in this race, where you have an unelected bureaucrat that basically makes the call,” he said on Fox News today. “We essentially got one super-voter right now that is applying inconsistently the standard that they developed just 36 hours before the count began.”
The Desert Storm veteran was counting on support from military voters, whose ballots have yet to be counted. Miller also suggested that he may request a recount, specifically a hand recount, of all his ballots.
“To suggest that we aren’t going to, not necessarily take advantage but ensure the integrity of the vote by applying the same sort of count to our votes … I just think it’s kind of disingenuous,” he said. “Sen. Murkowski is going to do what she’s going to do. We aren’t going to stand in the way of her press conference obviously tonight but we’re going to make sure we maintain our position, that the integrity of the vote matters and especially these military votes matter.”
Miller may have to pay for the recount himself if he wants one. If there is a difference of 20 or fewer votes, or less than 0.5 percent, the state pays for the recount. If not, the candidate requesting the recount has to pay ,000. All of that money is refunded if the votes were indeed miscounted.
With today’s win, Murkowski becomes the first incumbent senator to win through a write-in campaign.
The only other person to win a U.S. Senate seat in a write-in campaign was Strom Thurmond, who ran in South Carolina in 1954. No write-in candidate has ever been successful in Alaska.
Murkowski went quickly from the bottom to the top. She lost in a brutal primary against Miller, a virtual unknown, who received an important endorsement from Palin and whose coffers were filled by the Tea Party Express, which helped several other candidates to victory.
Miller painted Murkowski as a Washington insider who supported President Obama’s agenda and programs like the 7 billion stimulus bill.
Even though she eventually lost to the Tea Party candidate, in one of the biggest upsets of the primaries, Murkowski wouldn’t give up. She waged a write-in campaign on the Republican ballot and spearheaded a campaign — funded mostly by her own money — that focused on not only her record but getting voters to remember the spelling of her name.
Miller, meanwhile, dropped in the polls as he was dogged by scandals involving his time as an attorney at the Fairbanks North Star Borough. Miller admitted he used his employers equipment to voice his opposition to then-Republican party chairman Randy Ruedrich.
Miller was also accused by his opponents of hypocrisy. The candidate was an outspoken critic of federal programs even though he and his family received Medicaid. Miller, a staunch critic of big government and entitlement programs, also accepted federal farm subsidies and low-income hunting and fishing licenses, according to local reports.
Miller has continuously fought the results of the write-in ballots. He currently has two lawsuits pending against the Alaska Elections Division. One claiming that their decision to count misspelled ballots if they show voter intent is unconstitutional, and a second one seeking voter rolls from some precincts.
Murkowski received a lukewarm reception from the Republican leadership when she returned to Washington, D.C. on Monday. The senator was stripped of her leadership post when she announced her write-in campaign, even as GOP leaders secretly prepared for the possibility of Miller’s downfall.
The incumbent senator had heavy criticism for her opponents like Fox TV host Palin and Sen. Jim DeMint.
“I think some of the Republicans in the Congress feel pretty strongly that he and his actions potentially cost us the majority by encouraging candidates that ended up not being electable.”
Murkowski will return to Washington in an odd position in the Republican Party. The National Republican Senatorial Committee threw its support and cash behind Miller, opting to back the candidate who received the GOP nomination. And she didn’t have many friends within the tea party movement — with many of those voters seeing her as too liberal — putting her at odds with that faction of the party as well.
Though she plans to caucus with Republicans, she said she won’t be beholden to any special interests or party — an initial sign that she may not try to reclaim her leadership post within the GOP conference. She voluntarily resigned it in deciding to make her outsider run.
Murkowski says she will approach issues as they come to her, and vowed to do what’s best for Alaskans. She opposed a Republican-supported moratorium on earmark requests, a hot issue on Capitol Hill following the tea party surge in the mid-term elections. She says a ban on earmarks won’t do much to reduce federal spending and instead would leave bureaucrats to decide spending priorities.
The longshot nature of Murkowski’s campaign seemed to invigorate the senator and her team. Her one-time spokesman, Steve Wackowski, said he liked nothing more than hearing it couldn’t be done — that that only made the campaign work harder in what amounted to a massive do-over after she flubbed the primary contest.
History wasn’t on their side: Nothing of this scale had been pulled off in Alaska, and had rarely been accomplished elsewhere. The last Senate candidate to win as a write-in was Strom Thurmond in 1954.
But Murkowski wasn’t the typical write-in candidate: She enjoyed widespread name recognition as Alaska’s senior senator and daughter of a local political dynasty, and had a million-plus bank account.
She also showed a fire she’d lacked during the primary, when she referred to Miller as “my opponent” and fell victim to aggressive last-minute attack ads by the Tea Party Express.
This time, she pounced on Miller’s every misstep. While she still stressed her seniority and her willingness to be a voice for all Alaskans, her speeches sounded more like rallies than lectures, generally ending in her leading a raucous chorus of supporters in spelling her name: “M-U-R, K-O-W, S-K-I.”
“She just had a fire in her belly to do this not for herself but for the large number of people, literally hundreds, who begged her to do this,” said John Tracy, who worked on her ad team.
Miller didn’t do himself any favors after his upset of Murkowski in the August primary. Court documents were released showing Miller was suspended as a government employee for using work computers for partisan political work and lying about it. In other miscues, his security detail handcuffed a journalist asking questions at a town hall meeting, and it was revealed his family received many government handouts that he railed against as a tea party candidate.
Murkowski, 53, was appointed to the Senate seat long held by her father when he became governor in 2002; she won the seat in her own right two years later, in a narrow win over Democrat Tony Knowles, and her father was ousted in the 2006 gubernatorial primary by Fox TV host Palin, contributing to the icy relationship between the two families.
The win comes a day before what would have been Sen. Ted Stevens’ 87th birthday. Stevens, a legend in Alaska for bringing home billions in federal aid and projects during his 40 years in the Senate, was one of Murkowski’s biggest supporters, and a mentor. He died in a plane crash two weeks before the primary.
Murkowski invoked his legacy during her write-in campaign as something she wanted to carry on.
Bottom line, this lady is tough and she’s a fighter. She fought and as sometimes happens when you fight, she won. If the tea party and republicans don’t want her the Democrats would be proud to welcome her to our party. We would be better off with her spirit. As Democrats we are used to fighting and losing, but since electing Obama we don’t put up a fight anymore we just cave and lose. Congradulations to Lisa for having the spine to fight.
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