After more than a week of ballot counting, Sen. Lisa Murkowski has been named the winner in Alaska, defeating tea party favorite Joe Miller and becoming the first Senate candidate in more than 50 years to win a write-in campaign.
With only 700 votes left to count Wednesday afternoon, state election officials announced that Murkowski's lead was insurmountable.
The Associated Press
reported that the incumbent was ahead by about 10,000 votes -- a total that includes 8,153 ballots challenged by the Miller campaign over issues like legibility, misspellings or extra words.
Before hopping a plane from Washington to Alaska, the senator emailed supporters Wednesday and proclaimed that the campaign "made history."
There was no immediate comment from the Miller camp. Earlier Wednesday
, the Republican said Alaska's computerized voting system is "suspect" and that the returns from the Nov. 2 election should be counted again -- by hand, the Anchorage Daily News
Miller has said he would consider legal action in the event of a razor-thin margin, but he also conceded that he would give up the fight if it appears the math doesn't work in his favor. Last week a federal judge dealt Miller a blow by denying his request to throw out any apparent votes for Murkowski that misspelled her name.
The state said more than 98,500 write-in ballots were cast.
Miller, a little-known conservative lawyer who went on to get the coveted Sarah Palin endorsement, shook up Alaska politics when he defeated Murkowski in the GOP primary. He appeared headed for the Senate until Murkowski decided to stage a write-in campaign. On election night, the number of write-in votes exceeded the number that Miller received by about 41 to 34 percent. Democrat Scott McAdams came in third with 25 percent of the vote.
The last Senate candidate to win as a write-in was Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.) in 1954.