Miller leads Murkowski; Parnell wins

Posted: Wednesday, August 25, 2010

ANCHORAGE -- Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski was locked in a tight race Tuesday to hold on to her seat amid a surprisingly tough challenge from a Sarah Palin-backed conservative.

Joe Miller held a nearly 2,300-vote lead with about half the precincts reporting as the decorated Gulf War veteran looked to pull off one of the biggest political upsets of the year.

Miller had 51.8 percent of the vote, compared with 48.1 percent for Murkowski.

In other races:

* Gov. Sean Parnell maintained his early lead in Alaska's GOP gubernatorial primary.

With 172 of 438 precincts reporting, Parnell had 49 percent of the vote. Anchorage attorney Bill Walker, who poured hundreds of thousands of his own dollars into his campaign, was second, with 34.7 percent; former legislator Ralph Samuels was a distant third in the field of six, with 13.6 percent.

For the Democrats, Ethan Berkowitz maintained his early edge, with 48.6 percent of the vote. State Sen. Hollis French had 40.6 percent.

* Mead Treadwell was leading among Republicans in the race for Alaska lieutenant governor Tuesday night.

Treadwell, of Anchorage, had collected 53 percent of the GOP vote, with 36 percent of Alaska's 438 precincts reporting in Tuesday's primary election. Treadwell's main GOP rival, state Rep. Jay Ramras of Fairbanks, followed with nearly 32 percent of the early vote.

Among Democrats, Chugiak resident Diane E. Benson was leading with 65 percent of the vote.

* In the U.S. House race, incumbent Don Young easily fended off a challenge from political newcomer Sheldon Fisher to win the Republican Party nomination for Alaska's only U.S. House seat.

With 146 of Alaska's 438 precincts reporting Tuesday, Young took a commanding lead with 27,971 votes, or just under 70 percent.

Fisher recorded 9,729 votes, or just more than 24 percent, with John R. Cox collecting 2,429, about 6 percent.

* Alaska voters defeated a ballot measure that would have banned municipal governments and school districts from spending public money to lobby.

With 146 of Alaska's 438 precincts reporting, voters rejected Ballot Measure 1 40,380 to 24,313, or 62 to 38 percent.

The voting was closer on Ballot Measure 2, the parental notification initiative, which would require doctors considering an abortion for a girl under 18 to notify her parent or guardian.

Alaskans were approving the measure 35,895 to 29,132, or 55-45 percent.

In the race for the Republican Senate nomination, Miller sought to cast Murkowski as being too liberal and part of the problem in an out-of-control Washington. It is a campaign strategy that has helped oust other incumbents this year.

Murkowski has proudly touted her seniority after eight years in office, and said her roles on the appropriations and energy committees put her in a strong position to ensure Alaskans' voices are heard.

After keeping a low profile for much of the race, Palin recorded a robocall for Miller in the final days of the campaign and touted him as a "man of the people" on her Facebook page. The former Alaska governor also repeated a claim that Murkowski had waffled on her position on repealing the federal health care overhaul -- claims the senator has called false.

Palin and the Murkowski family have a complicated history.

Palin trounced Murkowski's father, Frank, in the 2006 gubernatorial primary -- the race that would launch her national political career. Last year, she said she'd raise money for Lisa Murkowski, and even contributed to her campaign, quieting widespread speculation that Palin would challenge Murkowski for the seat. But the women have clashed on issues like health care, though they've denied any bad blood between them.

Murkowski has fought back against Miller and Palin's claims. A radio ad on the election's eve calls Miller out as twisting the truth about Murkowski's position on the federal health care overhaul. Miller has stood by his statements.

"Alaskans deserve to know the honest truth," she said, "and they haven't gotten it from Miller."

The race was disrupted when former Sen. Ted Stevens died in a plane crash, with both candidates briefly suspending campaign ads.

Miller had the blessing of the tea party crowd. The national Tea Party Express reported spending at least $550,000 to help Miller score an upset.

Murkowski was appointed to the Senate at the end of 2002 by her father and won her first term in 2004.

On the Democratic ticket, Scott McAdams defeated Frank J. Vondersaar and Jacob Seth Kern.

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