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Beyond the Palin Factor -- Did Energy Issues Help Sink Senator Lisa Murkowski?

Joe Miller has held onto his narrow lead and Sen. Lisa Murkowski has graciously conceded in a surprising Alaska Senate primary. While many people are focusing on other story lines, Alaska is one of our biggest energy states and Murkowski’s support for energy taxes may be one of the major reasons Joe Miller was able to pull off this remarkable upset.

Elections are always a combination of lots of factors, and the most significant was likely Sarah Palin’s support, about which Miller said: “I'm absolutely certain that was pivotal.” But an endorsement, even a powerful and high—profile one, would not normally be enough to topple an incumbent senator in Murkowski's position.

Especially because Alaska is an energy state.

Lisa Murkowski was in line to chair the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee if Republicans gain control of the Senate. She is currently the ranking member, as powerful a position on energy issues as possible in the minority party. Her seniority and position on that panel should position her well to protect home-state energy interests, and she did so very effectively in June, when she led the fight to stop the EPA’s global warming power grab.

That type of seniority and position of power on the committee with jurisdiction over the state's biggest industry should have carried her to an easy victory. Instead it seems to have backfired.

Joe Miller, unlike Murkowski, took a clear, written stand in opposition to energy taxes. Miller signed the NoClimateTax.com pledge and made a strong commitment, in writing, to oppose any global warming bill that hides a tax hike.

Murkowski, on the other hand, refused to sign the pledge and openly discussed a carbon tax approach that could have a major negative impact on the oil and gas industry and the U.S. economy. 

In recent years she co-sponsored a cap-and-trade bill that hid an enormous tax hike, an issue Miller campaigned on.

In an energy state like Alaska, that's not just a major economic policy mistake -- as Murkowski has learned the hard way, it can end a Senate career.

With cap-and-trade energy taxes looming in a potential lame duck session after the election, Murkowski may have one last chance to vote on a huge national energy tax. 

She did the right thing with a classy concession speech and if she faces a lame duck cap-and-trade vote she should do the right thing for the Alaskan economy -- and the rest of the United States -- and tell Harry Reid no to hikes in a climate bill.

Mr. Kerpen is Vice President of policy for Americans for Prosperity. He can be contacted through Phil Kerpen.com. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.  His free two-minute Podcast is available daily.

Fox New Opinion is also on Twitter. Follow us @fxnopinion.

Phil Kerpen is the founder of American Commitment Action Fund, on the web at www.BookerFAIL.com.