ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- Write-in ballots held the edge in Alaska's hotly contested Senate race -- a good sign, potentially, for Sen. Lisa Murkowski's long-shot effort to keep her job.

It could mean another nailbiter end to a race between Murkowski and tea party favorite Joe Miller, who defeated her in the GOP primary by 2,006 votes.

Miller's campaign manager said the race was far from over, and suggested a battle loomed over write-in ballots.

With 71 percent of precincts reporting late Tuesday, write-ins had about 40 percent of the vote. Miller, the GOP nominee, had 35 percent and Democrat Scott McAdams had about 24 percent.

Murkowski is one of 160 write-in candidates eligible for the race. The write-in count only speaks to total ballots cast for write-ins -- not to names written on them.

Murkowski's seeking to become the first U.S. Senate candidate since 1954 to win a write-in campaign.