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Alaska Senate hopeful turns to court to stop Murkowski

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Senate hopeful Joe Miller has dropped his bid to stop write-in candidate Lisa Murkowski from being certified the winner of Alaska’s November 2 election but will challenge the results in federal court.

Backed by the conservative Tea Party movement, Miller beat Murkowski in the Republican primary last summer but was edged out in the general election when the incumbent senator ran as a write-in candidate.

Unofficial results showed Murkowski won by more than 10,000 votes, or some 4.5 percent of the total, making hers the first successful write-in campaign waged for a Senate seat since 1954.

“This decision will allow Alaskans to focus on bringing fairness and transparency to our elections process without distraction of the certification issue,” Miller said in a statement posted on his website late on Sunday.

Miller has argued that thousands of votes for Murkowski should be tossed out because of misspellings of her name and other flaws, and added that he planned to file a motion in federal court to back his challenge of the results.

The move is likely to clear the way for the state Elections Division to declare Murkowski the winner, allowing her to be sworn in for her second term in office. The U.S. Senate is due to reconvene next month.

Last week the Alaska Supreme Court upheld a lower court decision tossing out Miller’s lawsuit contesting the write-in ballots. A further appeal was not expected to keep certification of the race from proceeding.

Miller portrayed Murkowski as too moderate and prone to compromising with Democrats, and he had the endorsement of former Alaska governor and Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin and financial backing from the California-based Tea Party Express.

But Murkowski mounted an aggressive bid to retain her seat and won overwhelming support from Alaska Native groups and several labor unions that traditionally back Democrats.

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