ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Sen. Lisa Murkowski conceded a hard-fought Senate campaign in the Republican primary Tuesday evening, clearing the way for challenger Joe Miller to face Democrat Sitka Mayor Scott McAdams for the seat held by Alaska’s senior U.S. senator.
Murkowski conceded during a press conference Tuesday evening, saying she could not envision a scenario in which she could secure the Republican Senate nomination.
“And for that reason, and for the good of the State of Alaska, which is -- this is what it’s all about, it’s for the good of the State of Alaska -- I am now conceding the race for the Republican nomination,” Murkowski said.
When Murkowski’s campaign began she was considered a well-entrenched incumbent, enjoying both high statewide popularity ratings and massive advantages in campaign funding over Miller. She largely campaigned on the strength of her record, including her opposition to the Obama administration and the federal funds she brought to Alaska.
But Miller, a self-described Constitutional conservative affiliated with the National Tea Party, ran a hard-right campaign against Murkowski, pointing to her votes with Democrats as proof that she was a RINO -- a Republican in name only -- and questioning her stance on how the Constitution applied to social and funding issues.
Conservative turnout motivated by Ballot Measure 2, a move to require parental notification of teenage daughters’ abortions which narrowly passed Tuesday, may have had a role in unseating Murkowski.
A Miller endorsement from former Gov. Sarah Palin, who became governor in 2006 by defeating the man who appointed Murkowski to the Senate -- her father, former Gov. Frank Murkowski -- also could have had an impact on what became a surprisingly close race in its final week.
On primary election night last Tuesday, Murkowski was stunned to find Miller roughly 1,700 votes ahead of her in the race. With more than 20,000 absentee and questioned ballots yet to be counted, she opted to wait a week for those tallies to come in.
Murkowski saw an initial boost Tuesday morning, cutting into Miller’s lead by about 300 votes during the counting of the first 11,000 votes, but opted to throw in the towel by Tuesday evening.
"Right now it's a hard time because it was a hard fought primary. Both had teams working hard for them and yet it’s also a time when we have to come together for Alaska,” said Gov. Sean Parnell.