LAS VEGAS -- A 23-year-old beauty queen from Kenosha, Wis., has won the Miss America pageant in Las Vegas.

Laura Kaeppeler won the pageant last night after strutting in a white bikini and black beaded evening gown, singing opera and answering a question about whether beauty queens should declare their politics by saying Miss America represents everyone.

"Miss America represents everyone, so I think the message to political candidates is that they represent everyone as well," she said. "And so in these economic times, we need to be looking forward to what America needs, and I think Miss America needs to represent all."

Miss Oklahoma, Betty Thompson, 23, of Davenport, Okla., came in second, while Miss New York, Kaitlin Monte, 22, of upstate Pittsford, placed third.

Kaeppeler wins a $50,000 scholarship and gets the title for one year. Her platform during the competition was supporting and mentoring children of incarcerated parents.

Kaeppeler was chosen as the winner by a panel of seven judges during a live telecast on ABC. Contestants were from all 50 states plus the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The new Miss America will spend the next year touring the country to speak to different groups and raising money for the Children's Miracle Network, the Miss America Organization's official charity.

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