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Murkowski says election shows Alaska can-do spirit

Erika Bolstad
Senator Lisa Murkowski supporters waived signs at Election Central in the Egan Center Tuesday night, Nov. 2, 2010.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Gov. Sean Parnell and running mate Mead Treadwell field questions on the KTUU set at election central Tuesday evening November 2, 2010 at the Egan Center downtown.
ERIK HILL / Anchorage Daily News
State House candidate Lupe Marroquin visits at a campaign party in Club Soraya Tuesday evening November 2, 2010 at 4th Avenue market place downtown.
ERIK HILL / Anchorage Daily News
Democratic Senatorial candidate Scott McAdams is herded to an interview by KTUU chaperones at election central Tuesday evening November 2, 2010 at the Egan Center.
ERIK HILL / Anchorage Daily News
Scott McAdams visits as he arrives at a campaign party in Club Soraya Tuesday evening November 2, 2010 at 4th Avenue market place downtown.
ERIK HILL / Anchorage Daily News
Don Young is interviewed for KSKA at election central Tuesday evening November 2, 2010 at the Egan Center downtown.
ERIK HILL / Anchorage Daily News
Scott McAdams poses with Rachel Lauesen, left, and Harriet Drummond at a campaign party in Club Soraya Tuesday evening November 2, 2010 at 4th Avenue market place downtown.
ERIK HILL / Anchorage Daily News
Scott McAdams supporters watch for returns at a campaign party in Club Soraya Tuesday evening November 2, 2010 at 4th Avenue market place downtown.
ERIK HILL / Anchorage Daily News
Senator Lisa Murkowski talks to the national media as supporters waive signs in the background at Election Central in the Egan Center Tuesday night, Nov. 2, 2010.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Ted Kelly, 15, and Conor Feckley, 15, hold Lisa Murkowski campaign signs at Election Central in the Egan Center Tuesday night, Nov. 2, 2010.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
U.S. Senate Republican candidate Joe Miller leaves his campaign party at the Snow Goose Restaurant on election night, Nov. 2, 2010.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
U.S. Senate Republican candidate Joe Miller, in vehicle, prepares to leave his campaign party at the Snow Goose Restaurant on election night, Nov. 2, 2010.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Congressman Don Young congratulates Lisa Murkowski at her Election Night party at the Dena'ina Convention Center on November 2, 2010.
Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News
Senator Lisa Murkowski wore a campaign bracelet while being interviewed by the national media at Election Central in the Egan Center Tuesday night, Nov. 2, 2010.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Harry Crawford, right, is pleased to hear Michael Powell displayed a Crawford sign in his yard at a campaign party in Club Soraya Tuesday evening November 2, 2010 at 4th Avenue market place downtown.
ERIK HILL / Anchorage Daily News
Democratic Senatorial candidate Scott McAdams walks to election central flanked by his wife Romee, left, and daughter Kaity, 16, right, after leaving a campaign party in Club Soraya Tuesday evening November 2, 2010 at 4th Avenue market place downtown.
ERIK HILL / Anchorage Daily News
Lisa Murkowski greets supporters and cheers early returns at her Election Night party at the Dena'ina Convention Center on November 2, 2010. At left is her son Matt and at right is friend Hope Nelson.
Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News
Lisa Murkowski greets supporters and cheers returns at her Election Night party at the Dena'ina Convention Center on November 2, 2010.
Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News
Don Young thanks supporters at election central Tuesday evening November 2, 2010 at the Egan Center.
ERIK HILL / Anchorage Daily News
Lisa Murkowski greets supporters and cheers returns at her Election Night party at the Dena'ina Convention Center on November 2, 2010.
Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News
Lisa Murkowski and her supporters march downtown toward the Egan Center on November 2, 2010.
Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News
Democratic Senatorial candidate Scott McAdams urges his supporter to continue to be proud Democrats and continue to fight regardless of the outcome tonight at a campaign party in Club Soraya Tuesday evening November 2, 2010 at 4th Avenue market place downtown.
ERIK HILL / Anchorage Daily News
Lisa Murkowski greets supporters and cheers early returns at her Election Night party at the Dena'ina Convention Center on November 2, 2010. Her son Matt is at left. Her husband Verne Martell is behind her with her other son Nic.
Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News
Mia Costello celebrates her election to a state house at election central Tuesday evening November 2, 2010 at the Egan Center downtown.
ERIK HILL / Anchorage Daily News
Gov. Sean Parnell thanks supporters flanked by his wife Sandy, left, and his running mate Mead Treadwell at election central Tuesday evening November 2, 2010 at the Egan Center downtown.
ERIK HILL / Anchorage Daily News
Lisa Murkowski greets supporters and cheers early returns at her Election Night party at the Dena'ina Convention Center on November 2, 2010. At left is son Matt. Her other son Nic is behind her and friend Hope Nelson is at right.
Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News
Republican U.S. Senate candidate Joe Miller sticker at the Election Day party at the Snow Goose Restaurant on Tuesday night, Nov. 2, 2010.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Campaign signs for Lisa Murkowski and Joe Miller are waved at the corner of the New Seward Highway and Northern Lights on election day Tuesday November 2, 2010.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Republican U.S. Senate candidate Joe Miller is greeted by Alaska Republican Party chairman Randy Ruedrich at an Election Day party at the Snow Goose Restaurant on Tuesday night, Nov. 2, 2010.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Democratic Senatorial candidate Scott McAdams greets rush hour drivers Tuesday afternoon November 2, 2010 along Minnesota Drive at West Northern Lights Boulevard.
ERIK HILL / Anchorage Daily News
Jean Byers puts on a sticker after casting her ballot in Indian at the Valley Bible Chalet along the Seward Highway on Tuesday morning, November 2, 2010.
Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News
Republican U.S. Senate candidate Joe Miller introduces his eight children on stage during an Election Day party at the Snow Goose Restaurant on Tuesday night, Nov. 2, 2010.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Lisa Murkowski walks with her family after she cast her ballot at the Girdwood Community Center on November 2, 2010. From left is son Matt Martell, husband Verne Martell and son Nic Martell is at right.
Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News
Alaska governor Sean Parnell and democratic challenger Ethan Berkowitz shake hands while campaigning at the corner of the New Seward Highway and Northern Lights on election day Tuesday November 2, 2010.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Campaign volunteer Suzy Walsh waits for returns replete with a Scott McAdams mustache at a McAdams campaign party in Club Soraya Tuesday evening November 2, 2010 at 4th Avenue market place downtown.
ERIK HILL / Anchorage Daily News
Arlene Cowles and her daughter Matilda, 8, read the sign upon entering the polling place in Indian at the Valley Bible Chalet along the Seward Highway on Tuesday morning, November 2, 2010.
Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News
Republican U.S. Senate candidate Joe Miller is greeted by Alaska Republican Party chairman Randy Ruedrich at an Election Day party at the Snow Goose Restaurant on Tuesday night, Nov. 2, 2010.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Republican U.S. Senate candidate Joe Miller and his wife Kathleen are greeted by supporters as the arrive at an Election Day party at the Snow Goose Restaurant on Tuesday night, Nov. 2, 2010.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Queen Lisa played by US Senate candidate Joe Miller supporter Bob Dreyer sits in the back of Hummer at the corner of the New Seward Highway and Northern Lights on election day Tuesday November 2, 2010.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Joe Miller and his wife Kathleen participate in an election night party at the Snow Goose Restaurant Tuesday night, November 2, 2010.
Bill Roth / Anchorage Daily News
District Judge Richard Postma campaigns for retention on the bench with his daughter Kathryn Postma on the corner of Lake Otis and Northern Lights on election day Tuesday November 2, 2010.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Campaign signs are waved at the corner of the New Seward Highway and Northern Lights on election day Tuesday November 2, 2010.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Steve Miller the organizer of the Joe Miller sign waving militia waves a Betsy Ross flag at the corner of the New Seward Highway and Northern Lights on election day Tuesday November 2, 2010.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Election worker Sharon Yore, right, hands out a sticker to a voter in Indian at the Valley Bible Chalet along the Seward Highway on Tuesday morning, November 2, 2010.
Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News
Lisa Murkowski talks with reporters after she cast her ballot at the Girdwood Community Center on November 2, 2010.
Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News
Voters at Goldenview Middle School line up to cast their ballots Tuesday morning, in what election workers called a strong turnout.
Richard J. Murphy / Anchorage Daily News
A group of sheeple who organized on Facebook wave signs at the corner of the New Seward Highway and Northern Lights on election day Tuesday November 2, 2010. The group were there to illustrate white sheep feel that black sheep have the wrong values and vice versa. One of the sheeple commented "We have nothing in common with those black sheep.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Democratic Alaska gubernatorial challenger Ethan Berkowitz reaches out while campaigning at the corner of the New Seward Highway and Benson Blvd. on election day Tuesday November 2, 2010.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
District Judge Richard Postma campaigns for retention on the bench with his daughter Kathryn Postma on the corner of Lake Otis and Northern Lights on election day Tuesday November 2, 2010.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Xochitl Horton campaigns in support of Senator Lisa Murkowski in her reelection bid at the corner of the New Seward Highway and Northern Lights on election day Tuesday November 2, 2010.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News U.S. Senate candidate Joe Miller and his wife Kathleen thank their supporters before leaving an Election Day party at the Snow Goose Restaurant on Tuesday night, Nov. 2, 2010.
Bill Roth
A voter enters the polling place in Indian at the Valley Bible Chalet along the Seward Highway on Tuesday morning, November 2, 2010.
Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News
Naomi Stapp waves Joe Miller signs at the corner of the New Seward Highway and Northern Lights on election day Tuesday November 2, 2010. Stapp is Alutiq.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Senator Lisa Murkowski talks with her father Frank Murkowski (second from right), former Alaska governor and senator, during lunch at the Lucky Wishbone restaurant in Anchorage on November 2, 2010. At far right is Lisa's husband Verne Martell. Lunch at the Lucky Wishbone is an Election Day tradition for Lisa's family, a campaign spokesperson said.
Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News
. Senate candidate Scott McAdams stops for lunch on election day at the Lucky Wishbone in Anchorage. Son Gavin, 5, is eating a grilled cheese.
RICHARD MAUER / Anchorage Daily News
Lisa Murkowski waves to supporters after she cast her ballot at the Girdwood Community Center on November 2, 2010.
Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News

Sen. Lisa Murkowski may have done the unimaginable in pulling off a history- making write-in candidacy at a political moment when tea party-backed candidates had a grip on Republican momentum. As the election returns rolled in Tuesday evening, the fact that tens of thousands of people had written in her name had just begun to sink in. Murkowski took the stage at the Dena'ina Center at 11 p.m., with her husband, her sons and Rep. Don Young.

"They said, 'You can't do it, you can't win a write-in campaign,' " she said. "Not in Alaska, not anywhere. Do they know Alaska?"

"No!" her supporters screamed, then broke into the chant that defined President Obama's 2008 campaign: "Yes we can!"

"When they tell us we can't do something, what do we do?" Murkowski said. "We stand up just a little bit straighter, a little bit taller and we take it on."

Earlier in the evening, Murkowski entered a ballroom at the Dena'ina center to a roar of applause and cheers. She hugged her father, former senator and Alaska Gov. Frank Murkowski, then one of her sons.

Within minutes, her campaign had flashed early returns on a screen overlooking the ballroom. Murkowski, with the first chunk of votes in, led the way with 39 percent of the vote. Some supporters jumped up and down in excitement. Others chanted, "Six more years!"

"I was shocked," said supporter Alysia Mitchell, who along with her husband, Bruce, dropped off pumpkin bread and coffee to volunteers in the morning. Her main job as a campaign worker was talking her husband, Bruce, out of supporting Republican Joe Miller's candidacy, Mitchell said.

In an interview, Murkowski spoke as though she wasn't quite sure she was the one who had needed persuading to pull off such a campaign, or the voters of Alaska.

"There was a challenge that went out to Alaskans, it was a challenge to me to take this up," she said. "But in turn, I challenged Alaskans, and said, 'OK, you've got to step outside you're comfort zone too.' And they did."

Murkowski began Election Day in Girdwood, where she voted, and where her team tried to get a cup of the coffee at the town's well-known bakery. But the snow had shut everything down, so instead, she wandered around talking to her neighbors.

She attended Mass with her family and then had lunch with them at Anchorage's Lucky Wishbone -- both are family political traditions on Election Day. (At the Lucky Wishbone, she ran into her Democratic competition, Scott McAdams, "who must have that lucky tradition too," Murkowski joked.) She spent the afternoon making a final round of phone calls to supporters and volunteers who needed a pat on the back for their work.

"This is Lisa Murkowski from the Lisa Murkowski campaign," she said into a volunteer's pink-encased iPhone, eliciting giggles from the other supporters in the room, where spirits were high all day.

"There's some good vibes out there," she said. "All morning we've been talking about the fact that the Giants haven't won since 1954, the last time there was a write-in campaign in the United States Senate."

The write-in effort required the support of the sort of Alaskans, particularly women, who weren't at the rally, such as Kathy Aloia, 45, a taxicab dispatcher who voted at lunchtime at East High School.

Aloia said she hadn't met Murkowski but likes her and thinks she's done a good job representing Alaska in Washington. She said she once resented how Murkowski was appointed by her father, but she feels Murkowski long ago proved herself on her own.

"I filled in the oval and wrote in her name, just like they said," Aloia said.

Murkowski said she's been so focused on her own race that she hadn't had time to absorb the Republican-friendly returns that were rolling in from East to West. But she said that she, too, had experienced the national mood that swept Republicans into office as the day progressed.

"From Alaska's perspective, there has clearly been a mood, a response here in the state, concern about the level of government involvement in our lives, and people don't like that," she said. "There's some pretty strong resistance to what we're seeing out of the Obama administration, whether it's health care reform or some of the other initiatives. I'm clearly, clearly listening to that."

But Murkowski said she also thought her write-in campaign has "electrified" the state because people wanted their Senate candidates to focus on Alaska, not the national agenda.

"I have always been Alaska's senator, I have always focused on putting this state first," she said. "I think Miller took more, I don't know, call it a national approach? But I don't think it was an approach that dealt directly with what's going on here in my community."

"This is about Alaska," she said, then repeated it. "This is about Alaska."


By ERIKA BOLSTAD
ebolstad@adn.com