Joe Miller has given up his legal fight to wrest a U.S. Senate seat away from incumbent Lisa Murkowski, but promised local supporters and national TV audiences on Friday that he will continue the battle for conservative political values.
Confident and personable, Miller told reporters and dozens of supporters at a press conference in Anchorage that he did not regret the last few weeks of court wrangling over the way the election was conducted.
"I've been criticized for seeking to apply the rule of law to this election and I've paid a price for that," he said. "I knew that my motives and indeed my judgment would be called into question. What is true is that I fought this fight so the candidates of the future would not have to do so."
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Miller pointed to recent statements by lawmakers that they would look to clarify election laws in the upcoming session, and a decision by Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell to review the way the election was conducted as validation of his court challenges, which dragged on for weeks and took the case from federal court through all levels of state court and back to a federal judge who earlier this week dismissed Miller's case and allowed the election to be certified.
"The courts have spoken," Miller said Friday, telling his supporters who want him to continue appealing in the federal system "I hear you, but the time has come to accept the practical realities of our current legal situation. We shall abide by the courts decisions even if we do not agree with them."
But Miller also made clear he doesn't intend to stop advocating for the same issues that he embraced during the campaign. "I know for a fact that standing down is not an option," he said. "Exactly what form that will take, I don't know yet."
Miller said he has no plans to run for another office. He also has not re-opened his Fairbanks law practice and doesn't intend to do so, he said, because "frankly, our effort is not done."
"Now is the time for us to engage in a national conversation about the role of the federal government and its relationship with the states and the need to responsibly balance the federal budget," he said.
Miller, who earlier in the week also indicated he may continue to pursue politics, said he will remain an advocate for constitutional conservatism. "This is not the beginning of the end. It's the end of the beginning," he said.
Miller acknowledged the campaign has cost his family personally and financially and that he is essentially living off money the campaign paid him back for a $100,000 loan he'd made at the beginning of the race.
Appearing on CNN news after the press conference, Miller indicated he did not intend to call Murkowski and personally concede. "I have not called her and in fact I don't have her number," he said, adding that "I think we already have conceded."
Miller, a Republican backed by the tea party and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, had beaten Murkowski in the Alaska GOP's August primary, but then lost in the general election after Murkowski staged a successful write-in campaign and his own campaign imploded. Miller told reporters Friday that mistakes were made during his campaign, but he didn't mention specifics. His campaign suffered after his security guards handcuffed Alaska Dispatch's editor and the public learned of his misdeeds while he was working as a part-time attorney at the Fairbanks North Star Borough.
After the election, Miller refused to accept the vote tally which placed Murkowski nearly 10,300 votes ahead of him. He mounted a series of court challenges, alleging the ballot count was unfair. One of his biggest complaints was that ballots containing misspelling's of Murkowski's name had been counted as valid.
Three courts rejected this and other claims, including the Alaska Supreme Court and the U.S. District Court in Anchorage. Miller has maintained that the courts erred and that election staff has no authority to accept anything but the exact spelling of a name as it is presented on the candidate's declaration of candidacy.
Although Miller says his future career plans are nebulous, he did tip his hand during his most recent court battle. In a sworn statement provided for his case in federal court, Miller explained to U.S. District Court Judge Ralph Beistline that he is likely to run for office again, endorse other candidates, and function as a "spokesperson for lower taxes, limited government, and a return to the principles of the U.S. Constitution."
The vote margin between him and Murkowski mattered, Miller reasoned, because it is a "measure of a candidate's likelihood for success for his or her causes."
"The smaller the margin of a candidate's loss. The greater the likelihood the candidate will be able to run in future elections, successfully fundraise, attract public support, provide meaningful endorsements to other candidates, and act effectively as a spokesperson for his or her causes," Miller wrote.
Alaska Dispatch reporters Amanda Coyne, Jill Burke and Craig Medred contributed to this story.