Little-known Fairbanks lawyer Joe Miller has won the Republican Senate nomination in Alaska after incumbent Sen. Lisa Murkowski conceded the race Tuesday evening.
Mrs. Murkowski acknowledged her defeat as it became increasingly clear that she would not get enough absentee ballots to overcome the 1,600-vote lead Mr. Miller took on the night of the Aug. 24 primary.
"I don't see a scenario in which the primary will turn out in my favor," Mrs. Murkowski said in her concession speech, even as state officials were still tallying the final votes.
Mr. Miller, given little chance when he first entered the race, received a major boost from former Gov. Sarah Palin and from the state's "tea party" activists, who hammered Mrs. Murkowski for her vote in favor of government spending programs and in particular the $700 Wall Street bailout bill in 2008.
Mr. Miller will take on Sitka Mayor Scott McAdams, the equally little-known Democratic nominee, in November. Mrs. Murkowski had been a heavy favorite to retain the seat, but the race may now become more competitive.
Mrs. Murkowski is the latest Republican establishment favorite to be knocked off by a more conservative, tea party-backed challenger in this midterm cycle. Sen. Bob Bennett of Utah also lost in the Republican primary, and party-backed candidates were also rejected in GOP Senate primaries in states such as Colorado, Nevada and Florida.
Mrs. Murkowski did not explicitly endorse Mr. Miller as the GOP nominee, but talk of a possible third-party run has faded in recent days.
She told supporters in she was proud of the campaign she ran, which she called "honest" and "upright." She said the campaign stayed focused on the issues and the "high road."
"I'm coming back home," she said. "You all know my heart and soul has always been in Alaska."
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