Sen. Lisa Murkowski Concedes In Alaska : It's All Politics In a startling turnabout of political fortune, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), the odds-on favorite to win another term, has conceded defeat to her Aug. 24 primary rival, Tea Party-backed Joe Miller.
NPR logo Sen. Lisa Murkowski Concedes In Alaska

Sen. Lisa Murkowski Concedes In Alaska

Murkowski came to the Senate in 2002. hide caption

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Murkowski came to the Senate in 2002.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again:  In a year of real surprises, this may top them all.

Lisa Murkowski, the senior senator from Alaska who has been in office eight years and who was not supposed to have the least bit difficulty in winning renomination in the Republican primary, has conceded to attorney Joe Miller.

In Tuesday's counting of absentee and provisional ballots left over from their tight Aug. 24 primary, Murkowski picked up some votes but not nearly enough to overtake Miller, who had about a 1,400 vote lead.  Many of the absentee ballots still to be counted are from areas thought to be Miller country.

The Anchorage Daily News reports that Murkowski, at her campaign headquarters, said "based on where we are right now, I don't see a scenario where the primary will turn out in my favor."

And Alaska Public Radio adds that Murkowski said the decision to concede was "good for the state of Alaska."

Miller is a politically unknown Gulf War veteran who won the endorsement from former Gov. Sarah Palin.  That was followed with the decision by the Tea Party Express to give money to Miller, who had been widely outspent by Murkowski.

Tea Party and other conservatives argued that Murkowski was a RINO -- a Republican In Name Only -- and an enabler for what they saw as President Obama's radical agenda.  In addition, a parental-consent abortion measure was on the primary ballot, which brought out more conservatives.

Unlike the situation in Arizona, where GOP Sen. John McCain never let his conservative opponents in the primary get the upper hand and became the aggressor early, Murkowski mostly ignored Miller's challenge ... until it was too late.

She becomes the third senator to be denied renomination this year, following Bob Bennett (R-Utah) and Arlen Specter (D-Pa.).  Four House members have also been defeated in the primaries: Alan Mollohan (D-W.Va.), Parker Griffith (R-Ala.), Bob Inglis (R-S.C.), and Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick (D-Mich.).  One governor, Republican Jim Gibbons of Nevada, also met that fate.

Murkowski was appointed to the Senate by her father, Frank Murkowski, in 2002 shortly after he gave up his Senate seat following his election as governor.  The appointment was deeply controversial, although she managed to win a full term in 2004.  Two years later, Frank Murkowski, seeking renomination, got crushed in the GOP primary by Palin.

Miller will face Democrat Scott McAdams, the mayor of Sitka, in November.