Sep 1, 2010

Sen. Murkowski stunned by Palin-backed Joe Miller

Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski (upper photo) was defeated by Sarah Palin-backed candidate in GOP primary Tuesday by a little-known conservative lawyer in what could be the biggest political upset of the year.

Joe Miller (lower photo), backed by Sarah Palin and the Tea Party Express, became the latest newcomer to the national political stage to take down an incumbent in 2010 amid deep dissatisfaction with the Washington establishment.

Murkowski trailed Miller, a Faribanks attorney, by 1,668 votes after the Aug. 24 primary. Election officials began counting absentee and outstanding ballots Tuesday, and Murkowski made slight gains. But after more than 15,000 ballots were counted, she remained 1,630 votes behind.

The stunning result was a huge validation of the political power of Palin as the former Alaska governor has been playing kingmaker in midterm elections ahead of a potential 2012 White House run.