Miller not done, but won't stand in way of Murkowski's Senate certification

This year produced a number of winners and losers -- from the tea party and Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski to President Obama and the House ethics committee.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, December 27, 2010; 6:31 PM

Attorney Joe Miller has not finished fighting his months-long legal challenge over the Senate contest in Alaska, but he says he will not stand in the way this week when the state is expected to certify his opponent, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, as the victor in the closely watched race.

His decision all but assures that the incumbent will be sworn in Jan. 5 with the rest of the incoming Congress, even as Miller continues his campaign to have thousands of Murkowski write-in votes disqualified by the courts.

"After careful consideration and seeking the counsel of people whose opinion I respect and trust, I have decided that the federal case must go forward," he said in a statement late Sunday. "Nevertheless, I have also decided to withdraw our opposition to the certification of the election, ensuring that Alaska will have its full delegation seated when the 112th Congress convenes next month."

It is the latest sign that Miller is running out of options nearly two months after Murkowski made history by becoming the first candidate to win a write-in campaign for Senate in more than 50 years.

A tea party favorite, Miller had defeated Murkowski in the Republican primary. He went on to lose the general election after a series of campaign gaffes. He declined to concede, however, arguing in court that thousands of write-in votes should be thrown out under state law because of spelling and other errors. He successfully lobbied a federal judge to put a temporary hold on the election results as his case made its way through the courts.

Last week, the Alaska Supreme Court unanimously rejected Miller's arguments as well as his allegations of voter fraud. Now, Miller has taken his complaints back to the federal courts, arguing that it is a matter of principle that the case go forward even as Murkowski resumes her place in the Senate.

"This decision will allow Alaskans to focus on bringing fairness and transparency to our elections process without distraction of the certification issue," he said in his statement Sunday.

As of Nov. 22, Miller had raised more than $240,000 for his legal fight, a campaign spokesman said.

Last week, Murkowski campaign officials were working out a deal with the Senate to have her sworn in even if the election results were not certified by Jan. 5. It appears that won't be necessary, said campaign manager Kevin Sweeney, adding that the judge might have allowed the state to certify the results this week even without Miller's decision not to try to block it.

"The courts did a good job of looking at his claims and finding there was no merit to them," Sweeney said. "Having the courts look at our elections process and verifying the elections should be reassuring to the people of Alaska."

Since her come-from-behind triumph to win a second full term, Murkowski has returned to the Senate with enhanced clout and independence. She expects to keep her committee assignments, including her position as the top Republican on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

She is the only Republican senator to have supported all four of President Obama's key priorities during the lame duck session: the START nuclear arms reduction treaty; a deal on Bush-era tax cuts; a repeal of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy barring gays from serving openly in the military; and advancing to a vote on the DREAM Act, which failed. Staff writer Felicia Sonmez contributed to this report.

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