And it is the end of an era in Alaskan politics, Senator Lisa Murkowski has conceded to Palin-backed candidate Joe Miller in the GOP Senate race.
Just before 6pm local time Murkowski called her family to discuss her decision and then Miller to inform him of her decision. She then addressed supporters and media at her Anchorage headquarters.
“We all know this has been a long week, a terribly long week… we have counted and we have speculated,” Murkowski said. “Based on where we are right now, I don’t see a scenario where the primary will turn in out in my favor. And that is a reality that is before me at this point in time.”
“Todd Palin and Gov. Palin believed in Joe from the beginning when everybody else thought he was an impossible long shot.
Murkowski trailed Miller 1, 668 votes after last Tuesday’s elections and by about 1,500 votes after the Division of Elections finished for the day Tuesday. The incumbent thanked her staff and said she was proud of her campaign saying she ran an “upright” race, “We stayed focused on the issues.”
She told the supporters and staff, some who cried when she finished speaking, that Alaska was her “heart.” Murkowski said as she finishes up her term she will “continue to hold federal agencies accountable” and to cheers from the crowd said, “After my term is finished I’m coming home.”
Miller received the call at his home in Fairbanks, but his staff remained at their Anchorage headquarters and listened to Murkowski’s speech on the radio. They said the mood was not jubilant, but subdued. “Nobody was cheering. We listened to it. When it was over we were happy, nobody was jumping up or down. Just relief,” said staffer Dirk Moffat.
The Miller camp was caught completely by surprise believing Murkowski would continue with the ballot count. The Murkowski camp contacted them and they gave over Miller’s phone number so she could concede. “We are really happy. It was a good hard fought race and we are glad that we are able to secure the GOP nomination,” DeSoto said. “We didn’t know this would be the day. He’s up in Fairbanks.”
After Murkowski’s press conference, supporters and staff hugged, many saying they would not support Miller. It’s not clear if or when Murkowski will back her rival, but Miller told The Daily Beast on Tuesday that he would welcome her support in the general election.
The Tea Party Express helped Miller financially and with boots on the ground coming to Alaska and flooding their supporters with donation requests, most of that went to media buys.
However, Miller’s most high-profile backer was Sarah Palin and his stunning win, which no one outside of his campaign could have predicted a week ago, is also a big win for her.
“Todd Palin and Gov. Palin believed in Joe from the beginning when everybody else thought he was an impossible long shot. Todd Palin and Gov. Sarah Palin believed in him and knew he was the best choice for Alaska,” said SarahPAC staffer Rebecca Mansour.
Miller now enters the general election against his Democratic opponent, Sitka Mayor Scott McAdams.
Shushannah Walshe is the co-author of Sarah From Alaska: The Sudden Rise and Brutal Education of a New Conservative Superstar. She was a reporter and producer at the Fox News Channel from August 2001 until the end of the 2008 presidential campaign.