Murkowski Goes Rogue

After conceding a close primary defeat to conservative insurgent Joe Miller last month, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R.-Alaska) announced last night that she will try to keep her seat as a write-in candidate.

Obviously, Democrats from Wasilla to Washington are thrilled that the moderate GOP hopeful (lifetime American Conservative Union rating: 70%) will in all likelihood be taking some votes from Miller and helping the chances of the Democratic nominee, Sitka Mayor Scott McAdams.

Murkowski’s decision to “go rogue” and run a write-in campaign comes two days after Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) told Human Events, “I hope she doesn’t.” McConnell, John McCain, and other Republican senators have made clear to her they will stick with GOP nominee Miller.

As for the possibility of winning election to Congress through voters writing one’s name on the ballot, well, as Rocky the Flying Squirrel used to say on the 1960’s cartoon series: “That never works!”

Only once has anyone gone to the Senate as a write-in candidate: Strom Thurmond of South Carolina in 1954, who ran after a judge ruled that the intent to spell rather than the exact spelling of his name would count as a vote for Thurmond.

In the 20th Century, only three write-in candidates made it to the House as write-in candidates: Democrat Dale Alford of Arkansas in 1958 and Republicans Joe Skeen of New Mexico in 1980 and Ron Packard of California in ’82.
The one historic fact that may cause a bit of worry in the Miller camp is that in Alaska, write-in contenders do pack a bit of a wallop if they are statewide office-holders.

In 1968, after losing the Democratic primary to Mike Gravel, Sen. Ernest Gruening sought re-election as a write-in candidate and drew 17% of the vote against Gravel and Republican Elmer Rasmussen. (Gravel won with a plurality). In 1978, after losing the Republican primary for governor by less than 100 votes, former Gov. Walter J. Hickel ran as a write-in candidate in the fall and got 26% of the vote.