Alaska Republicans said they were ready to “embrace” Sen. Lisa Murkowski as Alaska’s only Republican senator, and they urged her challenger and Tea Party-backed candidate Joe Miller to “end his campaign in a dignified way.” But Miller hadn’t conceded defeat Thursday, and he indicated that he might call for a recount.

“At this point we are comfortable calling this race. Lisa has won. We congratulate Lisa on her victory,” said Alaska Republican Party Chairman Randy Ruedrich. He urged Miller to concede the election to Murkowski.

“Alaskans need to begin coming to terms with all that has happened. This was a free and fair election. It is now time to look forward. We call on Joe Miller to respect the will of the voters and end his campaign in a dignified manner. We have every expectation that Joe will do the right thing,” Ruedrich said.

Late Wednesday Murkowski, who waged a fierce write-in campaign to retain her Senate seat, declared victory over Miller. If Miller should challenge the vote count in court, Murkowski says that she doesn’t believe it would change the results of the election.

“The numbers are what the numbers are. We are clearly, clearly ahead [by] well over 10,000 votes,” Murkowski said on CNN’s American Morning Thursday. “Even if every one of those ballots [that have been challenged by Miller] were thrown out, I would still be ahead in the numbers by several thousand votes.”

The Miller camp challenged many votes where Murkowski’s name was misspelled, yet the Alaska Division of Elections allowed them to be counted. “Even if we were to go with his standard where it [my name] has to be spelled perfectly, we still [would] win,” Murkowski said.

Murkowski held a 10,000-vote lead over Miller. The latest count has Murkowski with 100,868 votes, of which 8,153 were challenged but counted. Miller had 90,740.

Both NBC News and the Associated Press declared Murkowski the apparent winner Wednesday, becoming the first senator elected on a write-in vote since Sen. Strom Thurmond in 1954 (see Daily GPI, Nov. 18).

When she returns to Washington, DC, Murkowski said she will caucus with Republicans. “I am still a Republican. I am still conferencing with the Republicans. I [will] retain my seniority that I have built.”

Murkowski, appointed to the Senate from Alaska in 2002 by her father, then-Gov. Frank Murkowski, had risen to prominence in Washington, notably as the ranking minority member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. A moderate Republican, Murkowski has worked closely in bipartisan fashion with Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) to get more legislation passed out of their committee than any other in the Senate. Compromise is not currently fashionable, however, and her cooperation has earned her the description of a “partial Republican” by some of her colleagues in Washington and in Alaska.

She has worked hard for the oil and gas industry, not only in Alaska but nationwide. Murkowski, 53, has supported expanded offshore oil and gas drilling and opening part of Alaska’s Arctic Natural Wildlife Refuge to drilling. More recently, Murkowski objected to a bill that would raise the liability cap for oil spills to $10 billion from its existing $75 million.

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