It wouldn’t be fair to history to judge Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s impressive write-in victory based on a dearth of precedence. No one had done it since South Carolina legend Strom Thurmond in 1954, but there also had never been a situation quite like Alaska.
The election has not been certified yet and Republican Joe Miller filed another lawsuit Thursday contesting the write-in vote-counting procedure, but with a 10,000-vote lead Murkowski appears to be headed back to Washington, D.C., in January for a second full term, keeping her seniority and the R after her name. How she pulled it off is now the story as Republicans look to avoid contentious primaries two years from now.
Thanks to her household name, sizable war chest and a more aggressive campaign than she was willing to run in the primary, the once-chastised Republican Senator was able to both educate voters on how to spell “M-U-R-K-O-W-S-K-I” on a write-in ballot and portray Miller as an unacceptable option.
“It was important to make sure that all Alaskans, regardless of your political stripe, felt that they had somebody who’s going to represent their best interests,” Murkowski said Thursday in an interview on “PBS NewsHour.” “I think that’s what this election was about.”
Miller’s inability to defeat the disadvantaged incumbent also delivered another blow to the record of tea party candidates in 2010. Several tea party candidates like Miller divided the GOP’s loyalties and ultimately cost the party victories in Senate races in Nevada, Colorado and Delaware, all states that political observers once believed were likely Republican pickups.
“As we move into 2012 and what’s going on with the presidential race, I think we’re going to be looking to see what is that level of strength and organization and commitment,” Murkowski said of tea party groups.
As of Friday, Murkowski led with 100,868 votes, followed by Miller with 90,740 votes and Democrat Scott McAdams, mayor of Sitka, with 60,007 votes.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., carries a musket on stage as he speaks during the American Conservative Union's Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbor, Md., on Thursday March 6, 2014.