Of the crop of politicians who ran for statewide office in Virginia four years ago, only one -- former state senator Nathan H. Miller, the Republican candidate for lieutenant governor in 1981 -- is sitting on the sidelines this Labor Day. And he misses politics.

"I sure do," said the Harrisonburg lawyer and businessman who left office in 1983 after a 12-year stint in the General Assembly -- two terms in the House and two in the Senate -- and a conflict-of-interest flap that effectively torpedoed his statewide race for higher office.

Miller, 42, has been active, offstage, in the GOP's efforts this year, raising money first for Rep. Stan Parris in the Northern Virginian's unsuccessful bid for the gubernatorial nomination and more recently supporting Wyatt Durrette, the party's candidate for governor.

He has scheduled a fund-raising event in September for his one-time colleague, state Sen. John Chichester of Fredericksburg, GOP contender in the race for lieutenant governor.

"It's been a rough year for me," Miller chuckled, with so many old political foxhole buddies seeking his support.

Will there come a time when they could repay the favor? "I think he really misses it," said Miller's wife Kimberly, 25, a former beauty pageant contestant whom he met during the 1981 lieutenant governor's race. "He's keeping an eye out. I think it's in your blood."

Miller agrees. He said he "thoroughly enjoyed" holding public office.

He decided reluctantly two years ago not to seek reelection. "The legislature is more and more full time," he said. His wife wanted him to stay on in Richmond; "I wanted a little breather. I really agonized over it a good while."

The decision followed a drubbing, in the state's newspapers and then at the polls, over 1981 campaign revelations that Miller had sponsored and voted on legislation that was beneficial to several Virginia electrical cooperatives that were his law clients.

The headlines sank Miller and helped drag his running mate, J. Marshall Coleman, to defeat at the hands of Charles S. Robb and the rest of the Democratic ticket.

"Obviously, it was a political ploy," Miller said. "My opponents capitalized on it rather handsomely. Of course, the Democratic legislature said there wasn't anything [to the allegations] -- after the election." The state Senate voted to rebuke Miller mildly in January 1982 for violating ethics rules by his actions.

Miller regards the incident philosophically. "The criticism you get in public office is really rather constant," he said. "You have to be prepared for it, take it in stride. Of course you don't like it, but it's part of the territory."

For now, Miller is "making some money." He is involved in a family business and other commercial interests. His law firm (mostly corporate affairs and real estate) has offices in Harrisonburg and Richmond, where Miller said he has done some lobbying for clients. He remains general counsel for the electrical co-ops.

He and his wife have a son, Nathan Huff Miller II, age 1 1/2.

As for the future, he said: "Politics will always be there."