ANCHORAGE, Alaska – With the slogan “Let’s Make History,” Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski announced Friday she’d pursue an unprecedented write-in bid to retain her Senate seat after she lost the GOP primary race to Joe Miller in August.
The decision is a historic gamble for Murkowski, who was joined by several hundred supporters waving red-and-blue “Lisa for Senate” signs and chanting “Run, Lisa, Run!” in the lobby of the Dena’ina Civic and Convention Center. “Isn’t it fun to yell like heck for something positive?” said Arliss Sturgulewski, as she and other supporters took the podium before Murkowski was introduced.
No one has been elected to the U.S. Senate as a write-in candidate since Strom Thurmond in 1954, and on Friday, it was clear she wouldn’t have the support of many fellow Republicans. Murkowski said she knows she faces a massive undertaking, not only to convince voters to support her but also to educate them on what they need to do for the vote to count.
She’ll be boosted by the $1 million left in her campaign account, but it was evident Friday she wouldn’t have support of the national Republican political machine. Some, like former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, made it clear they’d continue to support Miller. “It’s a futile effort on her part, it really is,” Palin told reporters in Des Moines, Iowa, after a speech at the Iowa Republican Party’s Ronald Reagan dinner. “She certainly has the right to do so, but Joe Miller is the right person to lead the state and this country.”
Murkowski campaign manager John Bitney said she was undecided up until the final day whether she was going to do it. Bitney had said Thursday that he and Murkowski were still going back and forth on it and “she’s told me why she should go one way, why she should go another … I feel for her,” he said.
Anchorage Republican pollster and political consultant David Dittman said Murkowski has to be concerned about whether she has enough support to take on Miller, who is the Republican Party’s nominee and has party support at the state and national levels.
He said Murkowski is taking a big risk and he doubted she’d have much of a political career left if she put supporters through a write-in and lost again.
Murkowski campaign supporters organized a rally to go along with her announcement Friday. The theme of the rally: “Write in her name and fill in the oval.” A table with volunteers had the banner: “Let’s Make History.” In order for Murkowski votes to count in the November general election, voters will have to write her name on the ballot and fill in the bubble next to her name. Alaska Division of Elections Director Gail Fenumiai has said that voters would not necessarily have to spell Murkowski’s name exactly correctly, however. She said “if I am able to determine the voter’s intent, then the ballot would be counted accordingly.” Her opponents, including Republican Miller and Democrat Scott McAdams, will have the huge advantage of having their names printed on the ballot.
Miller beat Murkowski in the primary with 55,847 votes to her 53,834.