U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski's defeat in last week's Republican primary ends a 30-year-reign of Murkowskis in Alaska politics and political experts say it will weaken Alaska's political clout in Washington, D.C.
Her fall from political heights came as suddenly as her rise eight years ago, when her father, Frank Murkowski, became governor and named her, then a member of the state House, to take his place in the U.S. Senate. Some voters saw the appointment as arrogant and unforgivable, and lingering bad feelings may have contributed to her loss, said political consultant Ivan Moore.
On Tuesday, after a count of absentee and questioned ballots, Murkowski, 53, conceded the Republican primary race to upstart challenger Joe Miller, 43. He's a tea party favorite who says the age of big federal spending -- in Alaska and everywhere else -- is passing. Miller faces Democrat Scott McAdams, the mayor of Sitka, in the November general election.
Unless Murkowski tries for and wins a long-shot write-in candidacy, come January Democrat Mark Begich will be Alaska's senior senator. He was elected just two years ago, toppling longtime Sen. Ted Stevens, who died last month in a plane crash.
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That's an astounding loss of political status for a state where voters sent the same three men -- Stevens, Frank Murkowski and Don Young -- to Washington, D.C., for decades. The seniority translated into powerful committee chairmanships and hundreds of millions of federal dollars for Alaska. Only Young remains in Congress, and he lost his leadership role under the taint of a corruption investigation that never produced charges.
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