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Joe Miller: Alaska’s lt. governor is biased

Jill Burke

1102-miller-partyHere’s a quick round-up of the latest developments regarding Joe Miller’s take on the uncomfortable wait for a decisive winner in the race for Alaska’s U.S. Senate seat.

The website Politicsdaily.com is reporting that Miller, in a conference call with bloggers Thursday morning, is impugning the loyalties of the state’s top elections official. It quotes Miller:

"There are a number of fights that are going to have to be undertaken, in part, due to the fact that the division of elections (is) headed up by the lieutenant governor.

"The lieutenant governor is effectively the same (as) what you might see in other states as the secretary of state. His statements are policy. He was appointed by Murkowski ... has connections to the Murkowski family. In fact, when he, last summer, spoke at the time Sean Parnell was sworn in as governor, spent five or 10 minutes praising the Murkowski family. It was really kind of a curious thing given the lack of popularity at the time of Frank Murkowski.

"But in any event, it appears that his bias is playing out in the decisions that he's making, especially those that are directly contrary to the law."

For the record, it was then-Gov. Sarah Palin who, in 2009, tapped Campbell to become the state’s lieutenant governor after her decision to quit her job as governor, pushing the existing lieutenant governor -- Sean Parnell -- into the top spot and leaving a vacancy for second in command. Miller is correct that years earlier, in 2003, Gov. Frank Murkowski (whose job Palin took in 2006 in an historic upset) did make Campbell a state commissioner for the Alaska Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, a post Campbell left when agreeing to, at Palin’s offering, fill Parnell’s shoes.

Meanwhile, Dan Springer writes at Foxnews.com that Miller believes he can overcome the lead Murkowski presumably has with the more than 13,000 votes that separate Miller and write-in candidates:

There are still about 30,000 absentee ballots that will be added to the count Tuesday. Miller believes since many of the absentee votes are coming from the military he will cut into the lead. Even if Miller is right and the lead shrinks, he will be facing a steep hill.

Alaska courts have ruled the spelling of a write-in candidate's name need not be perfect to be counted. It's the election worker's job to determine voter intent. In this race that would mean a vote for M-U-R-C-O-W-S-K-Y should count for incumbent Lisa Murkowski.

According to TheHill.com, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) is ready to help Miller fight Murkowski during the ballot count. DeMint’s Senate Conservatives Fund “is currently exploring exactly how it can assist Miller, the Republican nominee, on the fundraising front in what is expected to be a costly and drawn-out ballot-counting process,” reports The Hill, adding that “a source close to DeMint said the senator has no qualms about continuing to help Miller through what will likely be a contentious ballot-counting process, even though he ruffled some GOP feathers throughout the primary season.”

Still, the National Republican Senatorial Committee isn’t exactly springing into action and will not say if it will send someone to Alaska to assist on Miller’s behalf. When the committee sent a lawyer up for the count after the August primary, at Murkowski’s request, Miller cried foul and claimed the organization was meddling in the election. But with Miller decisive win in the primary, the group has since rallied behind him, including spending money on campaign ads which discredited democrat Scott McAdams and positioned Miller as the better choice.

When asked what role the committee will play now that Miller is in second place coming out of the General election (write-in candidates have a seven-point lead) the NRSC, through communications director Brian Walsh, would only say:  “The NRSC has been assisting the Miller campaign from day one and we continue to assist his campaign. There are still thousands of ballots left to be counted in the days ahead, and it will be at least two weeks before the write-in ballots will be reviewed, so like everyone else we will continue to closely monitor this race as it unfolds.”

Murkowski has assembled the A-team for what will undoubtedly be a contentious legal battle. Tim McKeever, a former chief of staff for U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens, will lead the way, assisted by Scott Kendall, who represented the Murkowski campaign in a successful effort to allow election workers to provide voters who asked with a list of the write-in candidates, and Ben Ginsberg, a top Republican election attorney who represented Norm Coleman in Minnesota in 2009 and George W. Bush in the Florida recount in the 2000 presidential election.

Ginsberg is a big get, and a telling one, according to Jennifer Duffy, senior editor with the Cook Political Report, who says Ginsberg -- arguably the most sought after Republican election lawyer in the country -- wouldn’t have signed on without first getting an okay from the party to do so.

“The fact that it appears that national Republicans have yet to send resources to Alaska to assist Miller through the counting of the write-in votes could well suggest that they are comfortable knowing that the seat will remain in Republican hands.  Which Republican sits in that seat is less important,” she said.

Contact Jill Burke at jill(at)alaskadispatch.com.