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In Alaska, Joe Miller steps aside for Lisa Murkowski to take Senate seat

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(Read caption) Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R) at a rally in Anchorage, Alaska, Nov. 1. Joe Miller has withdrawn his objection to the certification of Lisa Murkowski that had been keeping Alaska from seating a full delegation next month.

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This just in: Joe Miller is dropping his efforts to keep Lisa Murkowski from being certified as the winner in Alaska's Senate race.

Mr. Miller, who lost to Senator Murkowski's write-in campaign in an upset, has argued that thousands of write-in votes for Murkowski should not have been counted. He is continuing with a federal suit – "for the sake of the integrity of the election" – but he says he is withdrawing his objection to the certification so that Alaska can have its full delegation seated next month. That means Murkowski will be sworn in on Jan. 5 with the rest of the 112th Congress.

"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.

Murkowski, meanwhile, appears to have seen her election as a license to break with Republican leaders and become the maverick that Joe Miller once promised to be. This is especially so because of the rift that occurred with the Republican Party when she lost to Miller in the primary and was urged by party leadership not to oppose him as a write-in candidate.

This month, Murkowski earned the distinction of being the only Republican to vote for all four pieces of controversial legislation backed by President Obama: the DREAM Act, the tax-cut compromise, the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell," and the START arms-control agreement.

Murkowski is still a Republican, but she seems to feel less of a necessity to follow in lock step with a party leadership that largely abandoned her.

“She's a person who makes up her own mind, does what she thinks is right, and always keeps the concerns of her state at the forefront,” Sen. Susan Collins (R) of Maine – another of the dwindling Senate moderates – told Politico.

Murkowski herself says, "I certainly took a strong message from my write- in campaign in Alaska." She told RealClearPolitics, "Alaskans want to be heard on the issues. They don't necessarily want to be tied to a political label or party position."

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Indeed, she's already being heralded by many in the emerging "No Labels" movement – a group of centrist Republicans and Democrats that is trying to move beyond "hyper-partisanship" (and has attracted its share of derision).

Many Republicans, not surprisingly, have criticized Murkowski's independence.

“In supposedly voting ‘for Alaska,’ Lisa Murkowski must make the case why the Bush tax cuts shouldn't be permanent, why we're rewarding people for breaking our immigration laws, why [don't ask, don't tell] was not working and why the Senate should not take further time to review START," Miller spokesman Randy DeSoto told Politico.


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