- Associated Press - Thursday, December 30, 2010

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Alaska Republican, officially was named the winner of the state’s U.S. Senate race Thursday, following a legal battle that lasted longer than the write-in campaign she waged to keep her job.

Gov. Sean Parnell and Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell signed the paperwork certifying her win in the hotly contested race.

The paperwork was expected to be hand-delivered to Washington to guard against possible delays that could keep Mrs. Murkowski from being sworn in with her colleagues on Wednesday.

With certification, Mrs. Murkowski becomes the first U.S. Senate candidate since Sen. Strom Thurmond in 1954 to win a write-in campaign.

The official margin of victory over her nearest opponent, Republican rival Joe Miller, was more than 10,000 votes.

Mrs. Murkowski waged her longshot write-in bid after losing the August GOP primary to Mr. Miller, a Sarah Palin-backed “tea party” favorite making his first statewide run for public office.

She announced her write-in campaign Sept. 17 — an unprecedented effort in this state that lasted 46 days. Certification came 58 days after the election.

Mr. Miller was expected to announce Friday whether he’ll continue his challenge to the state’s handling of the election and its counting of write-in votes for Mrs. Murkowski.

Mr. Miller sued in federal court shortly after the hand count of ballots ended. He argued that the state should have adhered strictly to a law calling for write-in ballots to have the ovals filled and either the candidate’s last name or name as it appears on the declaration of candidacy written. Spelling, his attorneys insisted, mattered.

The state allowed for ballots with misspellings to be counted toward Mrs. Murkowski’s total, with the director of the state Division of Elections, in consultation with state attorneys, using discretion to determine voter intent.

U.S. District Court Chief Judge Ralph R. Beistline determined the state courts were in a better position to decide the winner initially but blocked the state from certifying the results of the race until the “serious” legal issues raised by Mr. Miller were resolved.

Last week, the state Supreme Court, in an at-times strongly worded 4-0 opinion, called voter intent “paramount” and upheld a lower-court decision that refused to overturn election results favoring Mrs. Murkowski.

Mr. Miller then took his case back to the federal court, but Judge Beistline refused to second-guess the state’s high court, tossing Mr. Miller’s claims of constitutional violations and lifting his hold on certification.

Mr. Miller could appeal Judge Beistline’s decision, lodge a formal contest of the election results in state court or give up.



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