Republican Joe Miller said Friday that he is giving up his legal challenge of the write-in election win of Sen. Lisa Murkowski, even as he asserted that his fight was in the best interests of the state and country.
At a news conference at his campaign offices in Anchorage, at which he was flanked by his wife and dozens of cheering and whistling supporters, Miller said it was time to throw in the towel but not abandon the fight for conservative values.
"The time has come to accept the practical realities of our current legal circumstances," he said, a reference to his series of legal defeats in state and federal courts. He added that he continued to have "grave concerns" about the nation's direction.
"The way of the past, with its obsession for growing government, out-of-control spending, pork-barrel politics, corrupting earmarks and its disregard for individual liberty, is destroying our country," he said.
His concession came nearly two months after Alaskans concluded voting. He mentioned Murkowski's name twice: the first time criticizing her for her recent votes with Democrats in the lame-duck session of Congress, and the second in asking God to "guide Sen. Murkowski in her future actions." He offered no congratulations and continued his attack of her support by Native corporations that get breaks in obtaining federal contracts.
Miller said his future plans remained vague, other than a trip to Disneyland with his family if he an afford it, but said he would not reopen his Fairbanks law practice. He said he would not take any money out of his campaign account for his own expenses or as a stipend, and was currently living off the money his campaign repaid for a personal loan he made to his election bid of about $100,000.
In one of several references to personal sacrifices he attributed to being a conservative advocate, he said, "It's been a struggle for us, there's no doubt about it."
He was noncommittal about any future run for office. He said he would remain a voice for smaller government, less federal spending and other issues favored by the tea party, which backed his campaign.
"I will continue to sound the alarm about our state and the nation, but exactly what form that will take, I don't know quite yet," he said. Later, he added, "Frankly our effort is not done ... That's what I'm going to continue to fight for, even at my own fiscal cost."
Supporters at the 21-minute news conference in Midtown Anchorage outnumbered reporters probably 10 to 1. They cheered many of his statements, especially when he mentioned the Constitution or his vow to continue fighting for their values, and they shouted down a few challenging questions by reporters.
It was Miller's first formal news conference since Oct. 11, which followed a debate at the Dena'ina Convention Center in Anchorage. That press event was a one-way affair in which Miller criticized the media, said he would no longer answer questions about his character or background, then turned and rushed out a back stairwell that led to the street while aides blocked reporters from following him.
The Oct. 11 press conference punctuated the testy relationship he had with the Alaska media. He largely shunned local reporters in favor of national cable channels like Fox News that allowed him to speak directly to his supporters around the country, many of whom opened their wallets for his campaign.
At a town hall meeting a week after the convention center event, his security detail handcuffed and detained a reporter who tried to ask him questions about why he was disciplined when employed as a part-time attorney with the Fairbanks North Star Borough.
Miller took about a dozen questions Friday. He acknowledged that "of course mistakes were made" by his campaign, which he said was run by neophytes, including himself.
But the only specific "mistake" he cited had nothing to do with his campaign. Rather, it was the involvement "of federal contractors," he said, a reference to the Native corporations that contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to an independent effort in support of Murkowski.
Since the ballots were counted and Murkowski was declared the winner with an advantage of 10,252 votes, Miller has been working full time with his legal team challenging the state's election officials. Among other issues, he said a state law required voters to spell Murkowski's name precisely when they wrote it in on the ballot, something state officials said wasn't necessary as long as the voter's intent could be determined, such as by pronouncing what was written phonetically.
Miller, a Yale Law School graduate who has frequently expounded his conservative interpretations of the U.S. Constitution, had his challenges to Murkowski's election thrown out by an Alaska Superior Court judge from Ketchikan, a unanimous Alaska Supreme Court, and a U.S. District Court judge in Anchorage. The federal judge, Ralph Beistline, said the case against Miller was so overwhelming that he ruled before the state even filed all its arguments opposing Miller's claims.
Murkowski's victory was certified Thursday by Gov. Sean Parnell, and the certificate was rushed to Washington, D.C., by courier so it would arrive at the Senate by Monday, when Murkowski's six-year term will end. She is to be sworn in Wednesday for another term.
Miller had the option of appealing the federal case to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, and of filing a new state case contesting the election. He waited until the 2 p.m. press conference Friday to announce he'd do neither, though he insisted he still had a strong case.
"We are confident we are right on the law," he said, and suggestions that legislators now see problems with the write-in counting statute confirm it, he added.
Miller said that he believes he raised legitimate issues in his case against the state's elections officials, and said he didn't think his drawn-out challenge hurt him politically, even though the state Supreme Court said his reading of the law would disenfranchise thousands of voters.
Earlier Friday, he told an interviewer on Fox News Channel that he didn't stand a good chance in the 9th Circuit because it was a "left of center bench."
Referring again at the news conference to his own sacrifice, he said, "Blunt honesty has a price -- the messenger may not always be appreciated."
Find Richard Mauer online at adn.com/contact/rmauer or call 257-4345.
Joe Miller press conference:
By RICHARD MAUER