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Alaska Senate Race Still Rages In Court

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Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s team sounds confident that she will prevail in the court challenge to her re-election win. But if she doesn’t, it could jeopardize her seniority.

“I’ve not heard of any request on their behalf to not proceed,” Miller spokesman Randy DeSoto said. NRSC spokesman Brian Walsh confirmed that position, saying the NRSC thinks “this is a matter for the people of Alaska to decide.”

Other than the pleas from Coleman and a handful others, there has been little public effort to urge Miller to give up. The complicated family politics in Alaska — Murkowski has an ongoing feud with former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who campaigned hard for Miller to unseat the Senator — means there’s not an obvious Republican to step in to speak with Miller.

Ketchikan Superior Court Judge William Carey will hear arguments today in Juneau on the motion for summary judgment filed by the state. The judge will evaluate the grounds of Miller’s argument that the state’s use of discretion when counting write-in ballots was unconstitutional. His previous challenges to ballots that misspelled Murkowski’s name, in some cases by just one letter, were unsuccessful.

The Miller campaign believes the case will be appealed to the Alaska Supreme Court, either by Miller or the state, no matter what Carey decides. If the judge rules in Miller’s favor by finding that his argument has legal grounds, there could be further evidentiary hearings held before Carey, putting off its inevitable appeal.

Murkowski will also have a say in today’s proceedings, as the state threw out more than 2,000 write-in votes cast for her that the Murkowski campaign claims should have been counted. Because of that, Carey last week allowed the Senator an official role in the hearing.

Miller is hoping the courts will throw out more than 8,000 ballots that the state rewarded to Murkowski after overruling a challenge from his campaign. His campaign also says there were numerous irregularities in not only the counting of write-in ballots, but also many of the votes cast by machine.

Beyond throwing out challenged ballots, the campaign wants the standard for counting write-in ballots established in the law. If successful in doing that, the Miller campaign would likely ask for a hand recount of all 255,000 votes cast, which could further delay the seating of a Senator.

After the matter is handled in state court, the election cannot be certified until the federal court lifts its temporary injunction. The Senate race is the only election in the state still not certified.

Miller’s relentless pursuit could be hurting his future election prospects, said Hackney, whose clients include Alaska Rep. Don Young (R).

“His being a neophyte of a politician, he’s sort of clueless to the fact that he’s now radiating to a larger audience an image of himself that makes him less electable,” Hackney said. “If he didn’t win, some of his followers relayed to me that he would be looking to take on Don Young in the next election. My feeling is, bring it on.”

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