ANCHORAGE, Alaska — As absentee ballots continue to pour into the state Division of Elections, speculation continues to fly about Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s options if she isn't able to pull ahead of challenger Joe Miller when absentee numbers are released on Tuesday.
The deadline for Murkowski to run as an independent is long gone, as she would have had to file by June 1. Her only other options are a write-in campaign or to be put on as the nominee for another party -- and according to Alaska Libertarian Party Chair Scott Kohlhaas, it’s definitely a thought that has crossed party leaders’ minds.
So far, the Division of Elections has received more than 9,500 absentee ballots, and has more than 6,000 questioned ballots to go through. Election workers in Anchorage were poring over thousands of absentee ballots Thursday, making sure they’re qualified to be counted starting on Tuesday.
Standing nearby were several volunteer lawyers for both the Murkowski and Miller campaigns watching the process take place. Sean Cairncross, the top lawyer for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, was expected to arrive from Washington, D.C. Thursday and join the Murkowski camp. He'll monitor the ballot-counting process, as well as any recounts if they are necessary.
The Murkowski campaign isn't willing to make contingency plans yet or even talk about what may happen after Tuesday's absentee numbers are released, but others may be making plans.
The Alaska Libertarian Party says "mutual friends" of the party and the Murkowski campaign have been talking about the possibility of her being the party's candidate in the November general election. Kohlhaas says there has been no direct contact as of yet, and it all hinges on current Libertarian nominee David Haase dropping out.
“Oh yeah -- I mean, not encouraging him, just talking to him about our options, and we're going to do whatever advances the cause of freedom because that's what we're about,” Kohlhaas said. “It's his decision to pull out, and if he pulls out then our executive committee decides who replaces him.”
“We've had a great outpouring of support from Alaskans, so we're focused on Tuesday right now and we're not going to comment past that,” said Murkowski campaign spokesperson Steve Wackowski. “I haven't been privy to any conversations with the Libertarian Party, so right now we're focused on the Republican primary and the outcome on Tuesday.”
To run for another party Murkowski would have to file by Sept. 15, or 48 days from the general election. To run as a write-in candidate, she would have to file at least five days out.
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