It took 58 days, but Sen. Lisa Murkowski has been declared the winner of the nation’s final outstanding Senate contest.
The Alaska Republican ultimately beat back an aggressive challenge from tea party favorite Joe Miller (R) following weeks of court wrangling, becoming the first Senator to win office with a write-in campaign in more than a half-century.
Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell formally certified the results Thursday, two days after a federal judge dismissed Miller’s lawsuit seeking to block the certification largely because of the inclusion of write-in votes that misspelled the incumbent’s name. State officials counted ballots for Murkowski so long as voter intent could be determined.
Miller’s loss marks another setback for the tea party movement, which largely failed to translate its success in low-turnout primaries and House races to statewide elections. The Tea Party Express in particular devoted enormous energy and financial resources to the Alaska race, as well as contests in Nevada, Colorado and Delaware, but lost them all.
The resolution of the Alaska election finalizes a 2010 midterm season that saw Republicans claim the House majority with a net gain of 63 seats and capture six seats in the Senate. When the 112th Congress is sworn in next week, the GOP will hold 47 seats in the Senate, Democrats will hold 51, and there will be two Independents who caucus with Democrats.
Miller’s future is uncertain.
Backed by the Tea Party Express and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, he seemingly came from nowhere to knock off Murkowski in Alaska’s Republican primary, before losing the general election by more than 10,000 votes.
An attorney and Army veteran, Miller has announced plans to hold a news conference in Anchorage on Friday afternoon. But he said Monday that he would not challenge the certification of Murkowski’s victory, saying he wanted to make sure Alaska’s full delegation would be in place for the start of the next Congress.
But he said he would pursue a federal lawsuit for the sake of “election integrity.”
Meanwhile, Murkowski will begin her second full term next week. Her role in the GOP caucus should be interesting to watch, given that party leaders publicly backed Miller after his primary victory.
In recent weeks, Murkowski has demonstrated a willingness to buck GOP leadership. She was the only Republican to vote for all four of President Barack Obama’s top priorities during the recent lame-duck session: the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” the tax cut compromise, the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty with Russia and cloture for the DREAM Act.