Miller Concedes Loss to Murkowski

Updated at 11:06 p.m. ET

JUNEAU, Alaska - Republican Joe Miller on Friday ended his legal fight over Alaska's U.S. Senate seat, conceding the race to his bitter rival, incumbent Sen. Lisa Murkowski.

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Miller's decision, announced at a news conference in Anchorage, came one day after the state certified Murkowski as the winner.

Miller had the option of appealing a federal judge's ruling or formally contesting the election results. He said he believes he is right about the law but thinks it is "very unlikely" an appeals court would side with him. He said he had to accept "practical realities."

Three courts ruled against Miller, who argued the state's handling of the election and vote count for Murkowski was not in line with the law.

Miller had not called Murkowski, who ran as a write-in candidate, to congratulate her, said his spokesman, Randy DeSoto. To say that she'd won it fair and square "is not in his thinking," DeSoto said.

Friday's announcement ends what started as a promising campaign for Miller, a Sarah Palin-backed tea party favorite who upset Murkowski in the GOP primary, in his first bid for statewide public office.

He was widely seen as the favorite in the fall election. But then Murkowski re-emerged as a wild card, launching her longshot write-in campaign.

Miller's campaign began to unravel with revelations about his past and the handcuffing of a journalist by his security, which overshadowed his message of limited government and fiscal restraint. For example, it came to light that Miller and his family once received the types of government aid that he raised concerns about as a candidate. And personnel files from his time as an attorney for the Fairbanks North Star Borough showed he was disciplined in 2008 after admitting he improperly used government computers for political purposes.

Miller insisted none of these things were pertinent to the campaign and instead were being used by his opponents to distract attention from the issues of the race.

In spite of all that, Miller retained strong support from his conservative base and won more than 35 percent of the vote in the November election. Results made official by the state Thursday showed Murkowski with a 10,252-vote lead over Miller, her closest opponent. Democrat Scott McAdams finished third.

On Friday, in front of supporters and with his wife at his side, Miller said his legal fight was a "worthy one," even though his motives and judgment were questioned.

The law calls for write-in ballots to have the ovals filled in and either the candidate's last name or name as it appears on the declaration of candidacy written. Miller argued for a strict reading of this, meaning no ballots with misspellings or extra words should be counted, as the state did for Murkowski.

The state used discretion to determine voter intent, with officials saying they did not want to disenfranchise any voters. The state Supreme Court called voter intent "paramount" and refused to overturn election results favoring Murkowski.

A federal judge earlier this week acknowledged that the law is "poorly drafted" but declined to second guess the high court.

Several state lawmakers have expressed interest in clarifying election law. The lieutenant governor also has vowed an internal review of the state's handling of the election.

Miller, a lawyer from Fairbanks, has insisted his fight was less about winning or losing and more about ensuring the integrity of the election process.

But Murkowski questioned his motives and called on him to concede. In a statement Friday, she said she was glad Miller had "bowed to the rulings of the Alaska courts."

Miller rarely mentioned Murkowski by name Friday in a speech that struck defiant tones.

He said he opposes the direction Murkowski has taken since returning to Washington - she voted with Democrats on key pieces of their lame duck agenda - and expressed hope that God would guide her future actions.

Miller said he's not sure what he'll do next but wants to be a "force of change," and continue fighting for the U.S. Constitution. He said he has spoken with some significant political leaders but declined to identify them.

He received support during the campaign and after from conservative quarters and the likes of Palin, South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.