Wednesday, September 1, 2010
Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski stunned by Sarah Palin-backed Tea Party candidate Joe Miller/3
Sen. Lisa Murkowski was booted from office in the Republican primary Tuesday by a little-known conservative lawyer in arguably the biggest political upset of the year.
Joe Miller, backed by Sarah Palin and the Tea Party Express, became the latest newcomer to the national political stage to take down an incumbent in 2010 amid deep dissatisfaction with the Washington establishment.
Miller's win was a major victory for the tea party movement and marked the first time it had defeated a sitting senator in a primary. Tea partiers had knocked off Utah Sen. Bob Bennett at a state convention in May. Embolden tea partiers have now set their sights on Delaware where they are backing Christine O'Donnell against the more moderate Rep. Mike Castle in the GOP Senate primary. Murkowski is the third senator to lose this year, along with Bennett and Arlen Specter, D-Pa.
Murkowski trailed Miller, a Fairbanks attorney, by 1,668 votes after the Aug. 24 primary. Election officials began counting absentee and outstanding ballots Tuesday, and Murkowski made slight gains. But after more than 15,000 ballots were counted, she remained 1,630 votes behind.
"We all know that this has been a long week, a terribly long week," she said at campaign headquarters while conceding. She said that while there were still outstanding votes, "I don't see a scenario where the primary will turn out in my favor, and that is a reality that is before me at this point in time."
"And for that reason, and for the good of the state of Alaska ... I am now conceding the race for the Republican nomination."
The stunning result was a huge validation of the political power of Palin as the former Alaska governor has been playing kingmaker in midterm elections ahead of a potential 2012 White House run.
Miller, 43, is an Ivy League-educated lawyer, West Point graduate and decorated Gulf War veteran who cast Murkowski as too liberal and part of the problem in an out-of-control Washington. It is a campaign strategy that has helped oust other incumbents this year and that Republicans will employ again in November as they look to take back Congress.
He didn't immediately return messages from The Associated Press.
In a statement, Miller thanked Palin, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, the tea party movement and a long list of Alaska supporters.
"Now is the time for all Alaskans to come together and reach out with our core message of taking power from the federal government and bringing it back home to the people," he said. "If we continue to allow the federal government to live beyond its means, we will all soon have to live below ours."