The Republican candidate who defeated U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski in Alaska's primary election has been cited for his role in a recent three-car collision in Fairbanks.
Joe Miller was involved in the crash in his hometown three days after the Aug. 24 election and before the conservative lawyer's surprise victory in the tight race was confirmed last week in the counting of thousands of absentee votes and questioned ballots. Murkowski conceded Aug. 31 to Miller, whose campaign is backed by former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and the Tea Party Express.
Alaska State Troopers said Miller's vehicle rear-ended a vehicle driven by Denali Park resident James Raisis, who then rear-ended a car driven by Mark Lewis of Fairbanks. Miller was cited last week with failing "to exercise due care to avoid a collision" in the Aug. 27 wreck on Geist Road.
Troopers said no one was hurt in the collision, although Lewis said he had some cervical stiffness and numbness in some fingers.
Lewis also was cited -- with stopping on a highway.
Miller told the Daily News on Monday he hasn't seen the $160 citation yet, but doubts he'll challenge it. He said troopers only cited drivers in the accident after learning a U.S. Senate candidate was in one of the vehicles.
Miller said he was not talking on or looking at a mobile phone at the time of the accident. Miller said he was "just driving down the road."
The day of the crash, troopers said it was unclear who was at fault. Beth Ipsen, a troopers spokeswoman, said Miller's high profile did not prompt the tickets.
"It's pretty typical not to cite drivers at the scene of a crash because many times the investigating trooper needs to sort out the information before making a determination on who to cite," she said in an e-mail.
Miller campaign manager Robert Campbell said Miller was two cars back and had no time to avoid the collision after the middle vehicle braked suddenly behind the first car, which was at a "completely dead stop."
He said Miller, 43, was traveling at only 35 mph.
"Anytime you hit the guy in front of you, it's assumed you were going too fast, without taking into account any conditions or any extraneous actions around you," Campbell said.
He noted Lewis also had some culpability.
"If Mr. Lewis was not at fault, he would not have been cited," he said.
Lewis, 49, said he plans to contest the citation. He said he was making a left turn and had his signal on when his sedan was struck.
Lewis said he believes the citation was issued because troopers gave "a lot of weight" to claims by the middle driver that he was straddling the turn and travel lanes. Lewis acknowledged the sun was shining right in everybody's eyes, and said he couldn't say whether the middle driver was correct.
"I just can't see how it could have happened the way he said. But then again, you know, there are anomalies in life," Lewis said.
Raisis, the middle driver, did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.
This story was reported by Rachel D'Oro of the Associated Press and Kyle Hopkins of the Daily News.