POLITICS
09/21/2010 01:23 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Lisa Murkowski's Write-In Campaign Sparks Fear In GOP That Party Could Lose Alaska Senate Seat

On the heels of Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski's announcement that she will pursue a write-in campaign in the hopes of keeping her Senate seat, concern is reportedly swirling within the GOP over whether the Republican incumbent's decision could cost the party come November.

Murkowski was defeated by Tea Party-backed contender Joe Miller last month in Alaska's GOP Senate primary. Upon the unexpected election outcome, members of the Republican establishment swiftly came out and urged support for Miller's candidacy, while simultaneously cautioning Murkowski against launching an alternate campaign.

"Alaska's voters have spoken, and have chosen Joe Miller as their Republican U.S. Senate nominee," said Brian Walsh, Communications Director for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, just one day before Murkowski declared the new direction of her campaign. "If Senator Murkowski is truly committed to doing 'what is right' for her state, then we hope that she will step forward and fully endorse Joe Miller's candidacy. No matter what Senator Murkowski decides for her own political interests in the future, Republicans are united behind Joe Miller's nomination, and we are confident that he will be elected Alaska's next U.S. Senator in November."

And, now that Murkowski is officially running as a write-in candidate to keep her seat, the tension between the incumbent Senator and the GOP only seems to be worsening.

The Hill reports:

Murkowski's decision to mount a write-in campaign risks splitting the Republican vote between two candidates and could cost her party a safe GOP seat.

"I am bothered by anything that makes it less likely that we can elect a Republican, especially in a state where we had every hope of electing one," Senate GOP Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) said Monday.

"Both in Delaware and in Alaska now, it's less likely than it was just two weeks ago. And looking at how we might try to regain control of the Senate, that's the part that bothers me," Kyl said.

Similarly, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell didn't mince word in expressing his dissatisfaction with Murkowski's decision.

"I informed her that by choosing to run a campaign against the Republican nominee, she no longer has my support for serving in any leadership roles, and I have accepted her letter of resignation from Senate leadership," said the Kentucky Republican in the wake of the Alaska Senator's decision. " Lisa has served her state and our party with distinction, but Republicans acknowledge the decision Alaskans made and join them in support of the Republican nominee, Joe Miller -- the next Senator for Alaska."

Despite the criticism, Murkowski continues to push forward with her campaign.

"I am listening to my constituents," she explained during an appearance on CNN's "State of the Union" over the weekend. "It's not about trying to make the Republican Party happy."

In a recent interview with the Associated Press Murkowski added, "Here in Alaska, what I hear so often is, 'I vote for the individual. I look at the person, I don't really get myself tied into the party label.'"

According to a poll released Monday on Alaska's general election Senate fight, Miller is running ahead of Murkowsi by a margin of 42 percent to 27 percent, with Democratic candidate Scott McAdams just two points behind the incumbent lawmaker.

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