JUNEAU, Alaska — Sen. Lisa Murkowski maintained a healthy 90 percent of the write-in vote in the Alaska Senate race Friday, even as election officials threw out a number of oddball entries like "Donald Duck," "Elmo" and "Revolt."
Murkowski said she feels "pretty good about the direction" the vote count is headed and expressed confidence that she'll pull off an improbable write-in victory over Republican nominee Joe Miller.
So far, the state has recorded 92,979 write-in votes and 82,180 votes for Miller. Murkowski has been getting about 90 percent of write-in votes. Another 7.8 percent have been apparent votes for Murkowski that have been challenged by observers for Miller for things like minor misspellings or penmanship.
The hand count is scheduled to go through the weekend and run well into next week to determine if Murkowski got enough write-in votes to win.
Murkowski's seeking to make history and become the first U.S. Senate candidate since 1954 to win a write-in campaign. She mounted her outsider bid after losing the GOP primary to Miller in August.
Murkowski said she's offended and angered by some of the challenges that observers for Miller are making to ballots for her.
While Miller's campaign maintains it's only challenging ballots that don't meet the strict letter of the law, including those with misspellings, Murkowski believes it was the intent of Alaskans in those cases to vote for her, and accused Miller of desperately grasping at straws.
Miller is suing to ensure the state is held to the law, which calls for write-in ballots to have a write-in oval filled in and either the candidate's last name or the name as it appears on their declaration of candidacy scrawled in — in this case, either "Murkowski" or "Lisa Murkowski."
The state has been using discretion to discern voter intent, pointing to prior case law as their basis in doing so. Murkowski supports this, saying she wants the voices of all Alaskan voters heard.
Chip Gerhardt, a Miller observer and attorney sent to the state by the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said observers are being told to challenge ballots with misspellings, extra words, improperly filled in ovals and her name written below the write-in line.
Chandler wins close race in Kentucky
Democratic U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler finally won his close re-election race Friday when his Republican challenger conceded 10 days after Election Day.
A recanvass of the election results a few hours earlier moved just one more vote into Republican Andy Barr's column and gave Chandler a 648-vote margin of victory. Chandler's win in a district that Republican John McCain carried in 2008 represented one of the few bright spots for southern Democrats this month and ended a contest that featured heavy TV advertising by both sides.
Barr said he had called Chandler to congratulate him. Chandler, who was first elected to Congress in 2004, said he plans to spend the next two years focusing on job growth and the economy.