ANCHORAGE, Alaska – Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski on Tuesday night conceded the Republican primary election to Joe Miller, the “tea party”-backed challenger who maintained his election day lead after thousands of additional absentee and other ballots were counted through the day.
“We know that we have outstanding votes to count in the primary, but based on where we are right now 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 time,” Murkowski said in a news conference broadcast live over statewide television from her campaign headquarters in Anchorage.
Murkowski said she shared the news with Miller, but she did not endorse him in her concession speech. She took no questions.
Miller did not make an immediate public statement on his victory. Campaign spokesman Randy DeSoto told the Associated Press, “In the end, we’re, of course, just happy to hear she conceded, that it would not end up in a long recount or that sort of thing.”
Miller will now face Democrat Scott McAdams, the mayor of Sitka, in the November general election.
The race was bitter down to the end. Miller in recent days has alleged that the Murkowski side was trying to steal the election by possibly tampering with votes. Murkowski called him paranoid.
Murkowski’s concession came after a day of counting just over 17,000 absentee and questioned ballots. Nearly 12,000 of them were from Republican voters, who had the potential to change the Miller-Murkowski race. But when the day was done, she had only picked up 38 votes.
Additional absentee and questioned ballots will be counted on Friday and next week. Murkowski gave her concession speech surrounded by her campaign volunteers. Many of them were in tears.
“I’m so proud of the campaign we conducted. It was honest, it was upright, it was energetic. It was what campaigning in Alaska should be.
“We stayed focused on the issues, we stayed on the high road,” Murkowski said.
Miller, a 43-year-old Yale-educated lawyer, West Point graduate and Gulf War veteran, won with the help of $600,000 spent by the California-based Tea Party Express. The group became interested in Miller after former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin endorsed him.
After the concession, Palin posted a congratulatory message to Miller on Twitter: “Do you believe in miracles?! … Thank you for your service, Sen. Murkowski. On to November!”
Miller and the Tea Party Express advertised heavily right before the election, with ads attacking Murkowski as a “liberal” who too often sided with the Democrats in Congress. Murkowski argued to voters that her seniority and position in the Senate is good for Alaska.
She’s a member of the powerful Appropriations Committee and the most senior Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Murkowski was stunned after Miller ended last Tuesday’s balloting with a 1,668-vote lead.