AP Calls Alaska Senate Race for Lisa Murkowski over Joe Miller

Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska CBS

CBS

Updated at 4:15 p.m. ET

The Associated Press is calling the Alaska Senate race for Sen. Lisa Murkowski, the incumbent Republican who ran a long shot, write-in re-election campaign.

With just about 700 ballots left to tally, Murkowski has emerged with a large lead over her Republican challenger Joe Miller and is poised to make history by becoming the first victorious write-in candidate in more than 50 years. Murkowski now has 92,715 undisputed votes, according to the Anchorage Daily News, while Miller has 90,468. The state has awarded Murkowski many of the votes challenged by the Miller campaign, giving her a total of 100,868 votes.

However, the race may not be over yet. Miller is asking the Division of Elections to recount the entire Senate race by hand, the Daily News reports. He also has multiple lawsuits pending over the race.

Miller also filed a legal challenge against the state's methodology for counting write-in ballots, asking that all ballots filled out improperly to be filled out. Yet even if the state were to throw out all of the Murkowski votes challenged by the Miller campaign, the incumbent would still have about a 2,000-vote lead over Miller.

The Republican also filed suit to get access to voter rolls from several precincts, according to the Daily News, in order to compare the number of ballots cast to the number of people who signed in to vote in those precincts.

Miller could also potentially file suit over his request for a hand recount, since the Alaska Division of Elections Director said the state does not conduct recounts by hand. If there were a recount, Miller would be responsible for paying for it.

Murkowski is headed back to Alaska today, after traveling to Washington this week, where she was congratulated yesterday on her apparent victory by her colleagues in the Senate. A spokesman for Murkowski said she will declare victory tonight, CNN reports.

A number of high-profile conservatives such as former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin have supported Miller's legal challenges. As late as Tuesday night, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee was urging his supporters to make a donation towards Miller's efforts. By contrast, former GOP presidential contender Fred Thompson said on his radio show today that it's time for Miller to bow out.

"Joe Miller ought to give it up and live to fight another day," he said. "Show a little class. All those people around you who had big plans based upon your success are going to have to back off now. Don't let them take you through this court system forever, trying to hang on by your fingernails."

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Stephanie Condon is a political reporter for CBSNews.com. You can read more of her posts here. Follow Hotsheet on Facebook and Twitter.

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