Murkowski Will Run as Alaska Write-in Candidate

U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski, R- Alaska climbs to the stage in preparation to announce her write-in campaign Friday, Sept. 17, 2010 in Anchorage, Alaska. (AP Photo/Michael Dinneen)
AP Photo
Updated at 11:39 p.m.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who lost Alaska's Republican primary last month in a stunning upset to a tea-party backed rival, announced Friday that she's mounting a write-in candidacy in a bid to hold onto her job.

Murkowksi told supporters at a late afternoon rally in Anchorage that Alaskans have told her they're worried about Republican nominee Joe Miller's extremist views and concerned about the Democratic candidate's inexperience.

The decision follows Miller's surprise win in last month's primary. Murkowski acknowledged she made mistakes during that campaign, but promised she'll be more aggressive this time in running against Miller, who was supported by former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin and the anti-tax, anti-establishment tea party.

"The gloves are off," she said.

Interactive Map: CBS News Election 2010 Race Ratings Special Report: Election 2010

Palin urged Murkowski on Twitter Friday afternoon to recognize that the state's primary voters demonstrated their support for Miller, a tea party favorite.

"Listen to the people, respect their will," said Palin, the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee. "Voters chose Joe instead."

Miller told The Associated Press Friday night that voters chose to support him because they wanted to move away from Murkowski's agenda, which he said includes looking to government as the answer.

"Liberals don't relinquish power easily, that would be my first observation," he said.

The convention center where the rally took place had a table where people could sign up to help Murkowski's campaign. Organizers also handed out flyers explaining the correct way to cast a write-in vote.

Also prominently displayed was a photo of the late Sen. Ted Stevens with his arm around Murkowski.

Stevens is beloved in this state for bringing billions of dollars in federal aid and project to Alaska, and he was one of her biggest cheerleaders before his death last month.

Earlier this month, Murkowski told The Associated Press she wasn't a quitter and was "still in this game." On Thursday, she told reporters that while there's a lot of risk involved in a run, success was possible.

"And I think this is the hope that Alaskans have been sharing with me," she said, "that if it is possible, Lisa, will you give it a try? Will you give us a choice?"

In running, Murkowski faces long odds. Historians and election officials can think of no Alaska candidate who has successfully run as a write-in.

She also has lost support from within the Republican establishment. Some leaders had urged her either to wait to challenge Alaska's Democratic Sen. Mark Begich in 2014 or to join them in supporting Miller, the self-described "constitutional conservative" who has been endorsed by Palin.

Miller said Murkowski's re-entry won't change his strategy, which is to continue calling for the need to rein in government spending and end the era of earmarks and big government regulation.

Murkowski has just has over six weeks to gear up a campaign and turn out the vote. But she enjoys widespread name recognition, and her campaign estimates she has about $1 million left in the bank. Plus, the race features a "kind of perfect storm of the things you need for a write-in to be successful," pollster Ivan Moore said. Among those, he said: a vast middle of Alaskans - "tens of thousands" - looking between Miller and Democrat Scott McAdams and questioning their choices.

The largest bloc of registered voters in Alaska are nonpartisan and undeclared.