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Alaska certifies Murkowski as Senate winner

Lisa Murkowski has been certified as the winner of the Senate race in Alaska, ending two months of legal wrangling over the seat she has held since 2002.

Gov. Sean Parnell and Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell, who oversees elections, signed the paperwork Thursday morning, according to the governor’s office. The paperwork will be delivered to Washington in time for Murkowski to be sworn in next week. That will ensure that there is no interruption in Murkowski’s service and seniority.

Murkowski, who is on vacation, has scheduled a swearing-in reception for Wednesday in Washington, according to her website.

“It feels great to have finality and for Sen. Murkowski to officially be declared the winner of the election,” Kevin Sweeney, Murkowski’s campaign manager, said in a statement. “We spent six weeks running a campaign, and it took eight weeks to get the final result. While the long wait may make it anticlimactic, it does not diminish the historic accomplishment of our campaign.”

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Joe Miller, a favorite of the “tea party” movement, won the GOP primary in August, forcing Murkowski to wage a write-in campaign. With her election certified, Murkowski becomes the first senator to be elected in a write-in campaign since Strom Thurmond of South Carolina in 1954.

Murkowski is expected to caucus with Republicans, though she has recently taken positions at odds with the conservative wing of her party in the Senate.

In the recently completed lame-duck session, Murkowski voted to ratify the new arms treaty with Russia and to repeal the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law that barred gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military.

She was one of three Republicans to support the DREAM Act, which would have provided a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants who were brought to the United States as children and who are in college or serving in the military. The measure was defeated by conservatives who feared it would become the opening wedge into the more complex issue of immigration reform.

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After losing the GOP primary, Murkowski announced her write-in campaign on Sept. 17, a quest that few believed would succeed. As expected, the election was followed by weeks of court battles after the polls closed Nov. 2.

After a tedious hand count of the ballots, Miller sued in federal court, arguing that the state should have been stricter in judging whether to allow the write-in votes to be counted. The Miller camp argued that incorrect spellings of Murkowski’s name should be thrown out along with ballots that had such defects as how the ovals were filled in.

The state argued that it could determine the voter’s intent in contested cases. That prompted Miller to go to the courts.

U.S. District Judge Ralph Beistline initially ruled the state, rather than the federal courts, was in a better position to determine the outcome.

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Last week, the state Supreme Court unanimously upheld the state’s voter intent interpretation. Miller then took his case back to the federal court, but Beistline rejected the suit and lifted the hold, allowing Thursday’s certification.

Miller could still decide to appeal Beistline’s action.

michael.muskal@latimes.com


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