U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski may well have done what few thought she could do: make history. She could become the first U.S. senator since 1954 to win a contentious write-in campaign.
Election results late Tuesday had write-in ballots, many of which may have gone to Murkowski, accounting for nearly 40 percent of the vote. Since that exceeded 35 percent for tea party candidate Joe Miller, a Republican, and 24 percent for Democrat Scott McAdams, state election officials will now count the write-ins as soon as absentee and questioned ballots are in.
In the end, the three candidates split the vote so thoroughly that the winner will be sent to Washington, D.C., by a minority of Alaska voters. Nearly two-thirds voted for somebody else.
The total number of write-ins dominated the U.S.Senate ballot throughout the evening, holding steady at about 40 percent since the early results were released about 9 p.m. (As of 12:45 a.m. Wednesday, 10,500 votes separated write-in candidates and Miller, while 20,643 votes separated Miller from McAdams.)
"Alaskans have been coming together -- Republicans and Democrats and independents and Greens and AIPs and Libertarians and nonpartisans ... and we are taking our state forward into the future," Murkowski told a crowd of supporters Tuesday night at the Egan Center. "We are making it happen. So we have got to wait just a little bit more. But we have waited this long ... we can wait it out."
By 10 p.m. Election Central at the Egan Center was jammed with people watching the results roll in on the giant screens dominating the front of the room. Candidates cruised through, many of them sitting or standing for interviews with the TV news crews lining the back of the room, their areas marked off with station logos and huge bouquets of red, white and blue balloons.
McAdams strode through trailed by cheering and chanting supporters. He acknowledged the vote total was not running in his favor but he wanted to see how rural Alaska came in before conceding defeat.
"It was great fun," McAdams said. "I'm glad I did it."
He was unsure of his future plans but he said he wants to stay in politics, "maybe even in my community."
"The biggest thing is that communities matter," he said, and encouraged people to get involved whether it was on their local school board, as a Boy Scout leader or in a community group.
A tense Joe Miller refused to make an appearance at Election Central, sending supporters home early. He had gathered with supporters and two country music performing artists at the Snow Goose Restaurant, but the crowd began dwindling as unfavorable results kept coming in. Miller left the Snow Goose with his family after telling reporters: "It's not over til it's over."
READ THE REST OF THIS STORY AT ALASKADISPATCH.COM
How will Donald Trump’s first 100 days impact YOU? Subscribe, choose the community that you most identify with or want to learn more about and we’ll send you the news that matters most once a week throughout Trump’s first 100 days in office. Learn more