The legitimacy of Alaska’s Senate election will go before a state court judge today, but even a quick decision will likely not end the legal battle over the state’s standard for counting write-in ballots or bring the Senate race to a conclusion.
The potential for a drawn-out legal process threatens Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s timely seating and has brought on calls from both parties for Republican nominee Joe Miller, who trails by more than 10,000 votes, to end his challenge.
The Alaska Republican Party, former Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman (R) and Alaska Sen. Mark Begich (D) have called on Miller to concede, but he is moving forward with his lawsuit. Murkowski’s attorneys have argued that Alaska deserves “full representation” and that her seniority ranking would be erased if there is a gap in service.
Team Murkowski thinks the judge will rule in her favor so they won’t have to worry about that.
“We’re confident the state has plenty of time to rule and get the certification. We just hope that when the court does rule, [Miller] will put the state’s interests above his own,” Murkowski campaign manager Kevin Sweeney told Roll Call.
Miller, fueled by the tea party to keep going, pushed back Monday against criticism that personal ambition is driving his extended pursuit, saying in a statement, “All we want is for all the votes to be counted in accordance with Alaska Statutes.”
The awkward situation has state Republicans helpless in their efforts to encourage Miller to exit the race so that Murkowski, a fellow Republican, can be seated by early January. Their fear is that the state will not be fully represented for important early votes in the next Congress, but Miller is not listening.
“The people that are around him are the anti-party,” Alaska-based GOP consultant Art Hackney said. “In this insistence, now that he’s doing this for the law and not himself, I think he’s building a pretty deeply felt desire to see him out of politics forever.”
Miller is considering future campaigns, and tea party groups have encouraged him to press on. This has put establishment Republicans in Washington, D.C., in a tough position, given they backed Miller as the nominee when he defeated Murkowski in a summer primary, but now they admit they are relieved she was able to win her write-in bid. Murkowski has eased back into her role in the GOP caucus on Capitol Hill after an uncomfortable few months, and she has been attending the party lunches.
As Miller’s legal challenges continue, the National Republican Senatorial Committee has not intervened either way.
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.