Commentary: Tea party fave Miller gets mixed reviews from peers

During the Republican primary, Joe Miller stressed his military background. He also stressed his experience as a Yale-trained lawyer, a judge and a knowledgeable — even expert — interpreter of the Constitution, especially the Founders' original intent. Miller's emphasis on his legal career and Constitutional expertise is unusual in Alaska Senate campaigns. Only two of the seven men and women who have held Senate seats since statehood have been lawyers, Ted Stevens and Lisa Murkowski. Neither said much about their law degrees, their resumes as lawyers or the Constitution and the Founders.

Miller is more in the tradition of Joe Vogler, founder of the Alaskan Independence Party. Like Miller, Vogler grew up in Kansas, earned a law degree (although he never practiced in Alaska) and hurled rhetorical thunderbolts at the federal government from Fairbanks, his home. Unconstitutional was one of his favorite terms of derision — along with posy sniffer, directed at environmentalists.

Vogler was a polarizing figure; so is Miller. While his admirers find him self-confident and goal-directed, his detractors, looking at the same man, begin their description of him with one word: arrogant.

The best single source of information about Miller's legal career is his application to become a Fairbanks Superior Court judge. He submitted the application to the Alaska Judicial Council Nov. 8, 2004. The date is noteworthy. On Nov. 2, 2004, Miller appeared on the general election ballot seeking a Fairbanks House seat. Less than a week later, he put forward his name for the judgeship. He was losing the election contest to incumbent Democrat David Guttenberg by 200 votes, he told the council.

"There is a remote chance that I could still be certified as the winner, depending on the outcome of absentee votes. It is my understanding that these additional ballots will be counted on or before August 14, 2004." If he won, he would withdraw the application, he explained. Miller obviously erred when citing the date of the ballot count — Aug. 14, 2004, had passed. More importantly, it's fair to infer he had not only given up his battle with Guttenberg but his interest in a legislative career. You don't run for the Legislature from a Superior Court bench.

Miller didn't win the election but withdrew the application anyway — on Jan. 12, 2005, according to Judicial Council records.

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