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Murkowski narrowly defeats Knowles

U.S. Senate race in Alaska

Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski and former Democratic Gov. Tony Knowles ran for the Senate seat.
Senate: AK Updated: 5:32 p.m. ET
Murkowski 49%
Knowles 46%
100% precincts reporting
Election Results Main Page

(CNN) -- Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski eked out a narrow victory Wednesday over former Democratic Gov. Tony Knowles in her bid to win a full term.

Murkowski had slightly more than 10,000 votes than Knowles when CNN projected her the winner.

Murkowski didn't have the advantage usually afforded an incumbent in her race against Knowles, mainly because she didn't get her seat in the manner most people running for re-election do.

Murkowski was appointed in 2002 by her father, Frank, who vacated his seat when he was elected the state's governor. The choice created a firestorm of controversy, and was exacerbated when he broke a campaign promise not to raise taxes.

Resentment over the appointment never died down, as a bill to prevent future governors from making long-term appointments to the Senate became law -- without the signature of the governor. The law allows an Alaska governor to appoint a senator to serve only until a special election, to be held 60 to 90 days after a vacancy occurs. Previously, the governor could appoint a senator if less than 2 1/2 years remained in the departing lawmaker's term.

That bill didn't go far enough for a group called Trust the People, which filed a lawsuit to put an initiative on the ballot to bar Alaska governors from filling vacant seats in the U.S. Senate, even for short periods.

Both Murkowski, 47, and her Knowles, 61, easily won their primaries.

Considering Alaska had voted overwhelmingly Republican since 1980, the fact that the race was considered close showed the extent of the backlash.

Murkowski graduated from Georgetown University, and received her law degree from Willamette University in 1985. After working in the Anchorage District Attorney's office, she had a law practice until 1998, when she ran for, and won, a seat in the state Legislature.

Her voting record angered some her Republican colleagues, particularly when she voted against a bill that would have recognized out-of-state permits to carry concealed handguns.

Knowles served on the Anchorage City Council from 1975 to 1979 and was Anchorage mayor from 1982 until 1987. After an unsuccessful campaign in 1990, he was elected governor in 1994 and in 1998 became the first gubernatorial candidate in 20 years to win re-election.

He earned a strong record on environmental issues, having fought the Clinton administration on drilling in the National Petroleum Reserve, and Congress on logging in the Tongass National Forest. Knowles is an abortion-rights advocate, against the death penalty. While he supports the Second Amendment, including the right to carry concealed weapons, he also favors the ban on assault weapons.

While both candidates support drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the National Republican Senatorial Committee has paid for television commercials criticizing Knowles because of his party's general opposition to drilling there. The group has tried to link Knowles with Massachusetts Sen.Ted Kennedy and Democratic presidential challenger John Kerry, both of whom oppose drilling.

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