It’s Miller v. Murkowski – again

Joe Miller is again challenging Lisa Murkowski for U.S. Senate, and this time he’s running as a Libertarian.

Late Tuesday afternoon, just hours before the deadline to act, the Alaska Libertarian Party and Miller announced that Miller will replace Cean Stevens as the Libertarian Party’s candidate for U.S. Senate.

“Alaskans deserve a real choice,” said Miller in a statement posted on his campaign website. “The choice between a Democrat, a Democrat-backed independent, and a Republican-In-Name-Only — who has been one of Barack Obama’s chief enablers — is no choice at all.”

Miller said in his campaign announcement that if elected, he would caucus with the Republican Party in the U.S. Senate.

The Alaska Division of Elections received Stevens’ withdrawal from the race on Tuesday. In her official letter to the division, she said, “After much deliberation and soul searching, I know that in order for Alaska to win we must make our best showing to put a Libertarian into the U.S. Senate. I think this opportunity will have its greatest chance at success if someone with greater name recognition is the one on the ticket.”

At 1:45 p.m. Tuesday, Miller’s application was stamped and received at the Division of Elections office in Anchorage.

According to records from the Alaska Division of Elections, Miller changed his voter registration from Republican to Libertarian shortly before the official candidate switch took place.

Miller became famous in Alaska during the 2010 Republican primary for U.S. Senate when he unexpectedly defeated incumbent Sen. Lisa Murkowski. His triumph was short-lived, as Murkowski launched a successful write-in campaign, becoming the first person to win a U.S. Senate seat with a write-in campaign since Strom Thurmond did it in 1954 in South Carolina.

Miller ran for U.S. Senate again in 2014, losing to eventual winner Dan Sullivan in the Republican primary.

Miller was unavailable for an immediate interview Tuesday evening, but Libertarian Party chairman Terrence Shannigan said Stevens told Libertarian Party leaders in late August that she wanted to withdraw from the race.

“The (Libertarian Party) board had to focus on that as kind of a first priority, and then the question is who do you run?” he said.

Time was a factor: 5 p.m. Tuesday was the deadline for candidates to withdraw from the election and for parties to change the names of candidates on November’s general election ballot.

Stevens recommended Miller to the Libertarian Party’s leadership, which approached him with a copy of the Libertarian platform.

“The response back was superb,” Shannigan said. “In the amount of time we had left, and the options we had, and Cean’s desires, it was all kind of taken into consideration.”

The party’s board voted unanimously on the evening of Sept. 1 to accept Stevens’ withdrawal and to replace her with Miller.

The Libertarian Party of Alaska twice courted Miller to serve as its candidate in the past six years, he added. “We’ve always found a very common alignment.”

According to records kept by the Federal Election Commission, Miller has $99,402 in campaign cash left over from his 2014 Republican primary race for Senate against Mead Treadwell and Sullivan.

In November’s general election, Miller faces Murkowski, Democratic challenger Ray Metcalfe, independent Margaret Stock, independent Breck Craig, and independent Ted Gianoutsos.

• Contact reporter James Brooks at 523-2258 or james.k.brooks@juneauempire.com.

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