Democrat Andrew P. Miller, confronted with costly court-ordered procedures that would govern any recount of the votes in the virginia senate election, dropped his request for a new tally today and formally conceded victory to Republican John W. Warner.
Miller made his decision hours after a pre-dawn order by a three-judge state court formally established recount procedures that could have cost him about $70,000 if he remained the loser after the recount. This was twice the amount the Democratic candidate had raised to cover the costs and twice what his lawyers had argued was actually needed to retabulate the votes.
As an indication that it also thought recount expenses would exceed $70,000, the court ordered Miller to post bond by Monday morning guaranteeing that up to $80,000 would be paid if he lost.
"Following the long campaign which ended last month, it has proved impossible to raise the additional level of funding which the court's orded could require," Miller said in a afternoon.
The Democratic candidate, who was edged out in the election by 4,721 votes out of 12 million cast, added,"I sincerely congratulate Mr. Warner of his victory, and wish him well throughtout his six-year term as Virginia's junior senator."
The Miller statement wrote an end to the closest general election for the U.S. Senate ever in Virginia and aborted what would have been an unpreceedented recount of statewide voting results.
Miller was not availble for an interview today but one of his lawyers said that his decision is final and that Miller will not ask the Senate, the final arbiter of its own membership, to examine the election results.
Warner, reached by phone at his Fauquier County estate, Atoka, said he was first told of Miller's statement by Gov. John N. Dalton. "I thought his statement was very gracious," Warner said, "and I wish the best of luck to him, his wife and family. I hope he remains in public service."
Warner said he called Miller at his home in Richmond "and has a very polite conversation." He said he assured him his "door would always be open to him."
It was the first time that the two candidates had talked since the Nov. 7 election, which ended an often bitter campaign.
The drama of the campaign, however, did not end with the election, which Warner won by a margin of less than 0.4 percent. In the first place, the accuracy of the unofficial results of the race - tabulated by news organizations - were in doubt for at least three days after the polls closed.
Then, while it was clear that Warner was the unofficial winner, it was also clear that the margin between the two candidates would be less than one percent, giving Miller the automatic right to a recount under state law.
However, under Virginia law Miller would have had to pay the costs of a new tally if he remained the loser.
He maneuvered to head off these costs by obtaining an unprecedented court order under the state's Freedom of Information Act that gave him access to working papers of the State Board of Elections while the board conducted its three-week official tabulation.
He had hoped to find enough discrepancies in the returns to force the board itself to conduct a thorough recount at state cost, but although Miller aides raised numerous questions about apparent discrepancies, the board on Nov. 27 officially declared Warner the winner.
On Dec. 2, Miller announced he would file for a recount.
His formal petition for a new tally was followed by intense negotiations among lawyers for the two candidates and the Board of Elections. By the time they appeared before the three-judge recount court Saturday, there were surprisingly few differences over proposed recount procedures.
Miller lawyers had argued that only about 725 recount officers were needed under the law while Warner's lawyers began with a figure of about 2,500. Before they got to court, they settled on a figure of 1,224.
At the same time, Warner'd attorneys agreed to leave it to Miller to argue how much the recount workers would be paid. These salaries would have represented the biggest single recount cost.
By the end of the daylong open court session Saturday, it appeared that the three judges might accept the Miller proposal of $20 per day for the recount officers. This would have kept recount costs to less than $40,000, Miller aides believed.
However, about 6 p.m., the judges announced from the bench that they would order a payment of $30 to each recount worker, and $50 to each of 136 local election board secretaries-payment levels beyonf those either Warner or state officials sought.
This added almost $20,000 to the recount cost and before the formal agreement was finally written at 4:30 a.m. today, another provision requirement 306 alternate recount officers added about $6,000 more.
When Miller lawyer Walter A. Marston took the final package to the Democratic candidate, Miller quickly reached the decision that the costs were too high for his resources.