En route to Anchorage
Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski announced last night that she will be seeking a write in bid for reelection two and a half weeks after losing her GOP primary to Tea Party darling Joe Miller, a Fairbanks attorney.
At an Anchorage rally, Murkowski acknowledged she’d made mistakes in the primary but said she’s ready for the uphill battle. “The gloves are off,” she said to chants of “Run, Lisa, run!”
No senator has won election as a write in since South Carolina’s Strom Thurmond managed it in 1954.
Murkowski was swayed by a recent poll showing that if she ran as an independent, she’d beat Miller by 6 percentage points and Democratic candidate Scott McAdams, the mayor of Sitka, by 18 percentage points, Andrew Halcro, a former Republican candidate for governor, told Fox News.
Murkowski has $1.4 million cash on hand to spend on her independent bid, and she will be the only seasoned politician in the race.
Republicans reacted to the news with dismay. “Listen to the people, respect their will,” tweeted Sarah Palin. “Voters chose Joe instead.” At a dinner in Iowa Friday, Palin added that she believes Murkowski’s effort is “futile.” Murkowski “certainly has the right to do so, but Joe Miller is the right person to lead the state and this country,” Palin said.
Alaska GOP Chairman Randy Ruedrich, a former loyalist to Murkowski’s father former Alaska Governor Frank Murkowski, said he regretted the situation but that did not change the will of Alaskan Republicans. “Lisa has chosen to run against the Republican Party and its primary voters,” he said. “We will treat her candidacy as we would anyone who chooses to oppose our party’s nominees.”
The last time an Alaskan made a serious bid at a write in candidacy was Ernest Gruening in 1968. Gruening lost his primary to Mike Gravel. In the general election Gravel won 45% to Gruening’s 18% (a Republican candidate garnered 37%).
If Murkowski draws 17% in this race, she could help Democratic candidate Scott McAdams to her Senate seat. In 2008, Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich, a Democrat, eked out a narrow victory over incumbent Republican Senator Ted Stevens by just 3,953 votes. A third candidate, conservative Bob Bird, split the GOP vote, drawing more than 13,000 votes from Stevens and handing Begich victory.
“The race is really between Joe Miller – an extremist candidate funded by outside organizations – and me,” McAdams said. “I remain focused on Alaskans and the difficulties and opportunities we face.” If McAdams doesn’t sound very excited, it’s because Murkowski, as the more moderate Republican in the race, has the potential to draw votes from conservative Democrats as well, though observers say she’s far more likely to hurt Miller than McAdams.