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Lisa Murkowski of Alaska bows out, is seventh losing incumbent

Lisa Murkowski of Alaska concedes to Joe Miller in Alaska's Aug. 24 primary. Lisa Murkowski joins six other congressional incumbents who lost in their party's primaries.

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But the Republican Party continues to struggle mightily to match the Democrats in its female strength in elective office and in fielding candidates. Following Murkowski’s loss, there are now 18 women running for the Senate, 13 Democrats and five Republicans. In the House, of 154 female candidates, 98 are Democrats and 56 are Republican. In governorships, Republican women come closest to parity, running for six seats to the Democrats’ seven.

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Currently, a record 17 women serve in the 100-seat Senate, 13 Democrats and four Republicans. In the House, of 435 total seats, 73 are held by women: 56 Democrats and 17 Republicans. In governors' seats, six current occupants are women: three Democrats and three Republicans.
In the Murkowski defeat, it was a high-profile Republican woman – former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin – who played a contributing role. While Ms. Palin has worked to promote GOP women around the country, in her own backyard, other considerations trumped gender. First, Murkowski is a moderate, favoring abortion rights and following the old-school Alaska tradition of bringing home federal dollars. Palin’s “mama grizzlies” are conservative and oppose abortion rights. Perhaps more important, a Palin-Murkowski family feud added juice to the contest. In 2002, when newly elected Gov. Frank Murkowski appointed his daughter, Lisa, to finish his unexpired Senate term, that did not sit well with Palin, who reportedly felt snubbed. The nepotism issue also seemed to hurt Lisa Murkowski among Alaska voters in last week’s primary. It was Palin who defeated Frank Murkowski in the governor’s race in 2006.

Now, Alaskans face a Senate contest pitting the Yale Law School-educated Miller – a political newcomer -- against the Democratic mayor of Sitka, Scott McAdams. Mr. Miller heads into November the heavy favorite.

“Now is the time for all Alaskans to come together and reach out with our core message of taking power from the federal government and bringing it back home to the people,” Miller said in a statement after Murkowski’s concession. “If we continue to allow the federal government to live beyond its means, we will all soon have to live below ours.”

Murkowski has yet to endorse Miller.

Democrats will seek to portray Miller as outside the mainstream; he favors phasing out Social Security.