Miller rose to national prominence as the Republican Party nominee and the Tea Party favorite in the 2010 U.S. Senate election in Alaska. He faced Democrat Scott McAdams and incumbent Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski who, after losing the primary to Miller, mounted a large and well-funded campaign as a write-in candidate in the general election and went on to win the Senate seat.
Before running for the Senate, Miller worked as an attorney in private general practice, a local government attorney, and a U.S. magistrate judge assisting the Alaska federal district court with its caseload. A 1995 graduate of Yale Law School, he was a combat veteran of the 1991 Gulf War, and a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He is originally from Kansas and the father of eight children; he and his wife and family moved to Alaska in the mid-1990s.
Miller sought the Republican nomination to challenge incumbent Democratic Senator Mark Begich in 2014, but was defeated by Dan Sullivan in the Republican primary.
Cean Stevens, the Libertarian party primary winner, stepped aside to allow Miller to receive the Libertarian nomination, in order that he could run in the crowded 2016 Senate election. He placed second in the general election, receiving just under 30% of the vote.
Miller was born and raised in Osborne, Kansas, the son of Sharry and Rex Miller. His father was a minister who owned a Christian book and gift store. He attended elementary school in Salina, Kansas and Salina Central High School, participating in debate, forensics, and student congress, and graduating in 1985.
He has said that growing up during the Vietnam War era made him aware of the military, and eventually led to his enrollment at the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1985. While at West Point, he was a member of the Officer's Christian Fellowship and the Hunting and Fishing and Survival Games clubs. Miller later graduated from Yale Law School with a Juris Doctor degree.
Miller served three years of active duty in the United States Army. An armor officer, he served in the 2nd Battalion, 34th Armor Regiment within the 1st Infantry Division at Fort Riley, Kansas. In 1991 Miller deployed to the Persian Gulf War, where he served as a leader of a tank platoon that helped drive Saddam Hussein's army from Kuwait. His superiors called him "a true warrior leader tested under fire" and he received a Bronze Star for leadership in combat. He has a service-connected hearing loss. He was honorably discharged on September 1, 1992, during a time when the U.S. was downsizing its military. He then served in the U.S. Army Reserve until his honorable discharge on May 30, 1997.
Following his discharge from active duty, Miller attended Yale Law School, where he was a member of the flagship chapter of the Federalist Society. He moved to Alaska in 1995 after earning his law degree, and accepted a position with Condon Partnow & Sharrock, a law firm in Anchorage.
During Miller's Senate campaign, Alaskan media criticized him for his 1995 sworn application in which he claimed to be indigent and a one-year continuous resident of Alaska to obtain a hunting and fishing license for $5, a $295 discount from the non-resident fee. The campaign responded that Miller had been a full-time student the previous year living on student loans, and that he was an Alaska resident when he purchased the license.
Miller was appointed a state court magistrate for the remote village of Tok, as well as a superior court master for the Alaska's Fourth Judicial District in 1998. During his U.S. Senate campaign, Miller, who had said federal entitlement programs are unconstitutional, was criticized for having received federal assistance from Medicaid and a federally funded Alaska health care program for low income families at this time of his life. His campaign responded that Miller had not received the aid since 2002. Miller said he did not oppose the state program itself, but did oppose its expansion. In 2002, after moving to Fairbanks, Miller was appointed an acting state District Court judge for several months.
From 2002 to 2004 he also served as a part-time U.S. magistrate judge, employing his wife for part of that time as a clerical assistant.
In 2010, while Miller was being scrutinized by the media, allegations were made that he had violated nepotism rules by hiring his wife, and he was criticized because she collected unemployment compensation after being forced to quit the job. Miller responded that the nepotism rules were different at the time she was hired, and the court verified that he initially had clearance from his superiors to employ her. Miller's former supervising judge on the federal court later criticized Miller for quitting the federal magistrate job without notice in 2004, saying it left Fairbanks without a judicial officer for many months, and gave him a "negative opinion" of Miller.
Miller spent seven years as a part-time assistant attorney for the Fairbanks North Star Borough (2002–2009) while maintaining a private law practice from which he earned the bulk of his income. One of his major cases as borough assistant attorney involved successfully defending the borough's levy of a tax increase on the companies that own the Trans-Alaska Pipeline. In 2008 he misused the borough's computers for political purposes (to pad a poll as part of his campaign for Republican Party state chair).
He was disciplined for his actions and for lying about them when first confronted by his superiors, facts that became public knowledge during the last ten days of the 2010 Senate campaign. His supervisor said that Miller was under stress at the time. He resigned from the assistant attorney post in September 2009 over disputes involving a possible conflict of interest in a case and his request for time off under the Family and Medical Leave Act. As of early December 2010, the borough was considering pursuing charges against Miller for deleting more than 15,000 e-mails in the days following his resignation. Miller's attorney responded that it was routine to delete non-essential e-mails and that the borough's inquiries were an attempt to threaten a candidate and illegally interfere with an election. The Alaska Republican Party chair, Randy Ruedrich, said the borough was engaging in "cheap drama".
In 2008 Miller earned a master's degree in Resource and Applied Economics from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. He currently lives in Fairbanks, where he owns a law practice.
In 2004 Miller ran for a seat in the Alaska House of Representatives, winning the Republican primary. He ran as a moderate Republican in the general election, but lost to Democratic incumbent David Guttenberg.
In 2008, while serving as Interior regional chairman of the Alaska Republican Party, he unsuccessfully tried to oust Randy Ruedrich as the state Republican Party chairman. The Alaska Dispatch described Miller's effort as part of a power struggle between "the old guard versus the new Palin-led faction", reporting that Miller arrived at the state Republican Party convention accompanied by a security detail of four bodyguards. Miller resigned his regional chairmanship and temporarily quit the GOP the day after the 2008 convention.
Miller announced his candidacy in April 2010 saying that the U.S. republic needed to be defended from a "head-long plunge into socialism and more government control". His chief opponent for the Republican nomination was incumbent U.S. Senator Murkowski. He quickly picked up endorsements from current and former Alaska politicians including State Senators Fred Dyson and John Coghill, and State Representative Tammie Wilson. Former Lieutenant Governor Jack Coghill, Loren Leman, and Wes Keller also endorsed him. Former Governor Sarah Palin endorsed Miller's candidacy in early June 2010. The Tea Party Express began funding TV, radio, and direct mail ads on Miller's behalf shortly after, spending $600,000 on what the Los Angeles Times called a "blitz" of "attack ads" against Murkowski. Miller said he spent approximately $100,000 of his own funds on the primary campaign. The New York Times described Murkowski as an establishment candidate and called Miller a "Tea Party upstart", and the race was viewed as a test of the power of the Tea party movement.
Miller won the August 24 primary by garnering 1,668 more votes than Murkowski, according to the initial count. Murkowski did not concede until one week later when, after more than 15,000 absentee and other uncounted ballots were tallied, she still remained 1,630 votes behind Miller.
Miller faced two candidates in the general election, Democrat Scott McAdams, and Lisa Murkowski, who announced a write-in campaign on September 17.
After securing the Republican Party nomination, he received backing from the state Republican Party, Senator Jim DeMint, and the National Republican Senatorial Committee. Various groups from outside Alaska endorsed Miller and contributed large sums of money to his general election campaign, including the Tea Party Express, the Safari Club International, and the National Right to Life Committee. Alaska's only representative in the House, Republican Don Young, declined to endorse either Murkowski or Miller. Sarah Palin appeared at a campaign rally with Miller for the first time in late October 2010.
During his general election campaign, Miller said he supported sharp reductions in federal spending and stronger states' rights. He told the Washington D.C. newspaper The Hill that the nation's problems were caused by activist judges who had permitted government growth and allowed dependency and "the entitlement state to grab hold".
The Democratic National Committee and other Democrats began painting him as a far right candidate. Confident of his election, Miller told the media that he wanted to serve on the Senate Judiciary and Armed Services committees.
Following a mid-October leak of information about his work record as a borough attorney, Miller held a news conference telling reporters that he was drawing a line in the sand and would not answer any more questions about his past.
Miller received national press attention after campaign security guards handcuffed and made a 30-minute private arrest of a journalist following a town hall campaign event in an Anchorage public school on October 17, 2010.
Bill Fulton, the owner of the unlicensed security firm said the journalist, Tony Hopfinger, was trespassing at a private event and had assaulted a Miller supporter by shoving him. Fulton was subsequently named as the federal informant who supplied weapons to a radical accused of plotting the deaths of officials in Fairbanks. The Anchorage Daily News described the event as public, and a school district spokesperson noted that the hallway where the arrest took place was a public area. Hopfinger said he had been trying to ask Miller whether he had been disciplined while working as a local government lawyer, when he was suddenly surrounded by guards and supporters, and bumped or shoved against one of them. No charges were filed against anyone in relation to the incident.
Miller responded that Hopfinger's actions were "beyond the pale" because he had followed Miller into the men's room. Hopfinger said that he asked no questions until after the townhall event when both men were back in the hallway.
After the incident, Miller granted interviews and discussed certain issues regarding his past employment with national news outlets, though he had previously refused to discuss the same issues with the Alaskan media. The information about Miller's discipline and suspension that Hopfinger was attempting to ask Miller about was released by the borough on October 26, in response to a lawsuit filed by several Alaska news organizations.
In late October 2010, Sarah Palin announced on Fox News Channel that the Anchorage CBS-TV affiliate, KTVA, had been conspiring to make up stories about Miller and that the campaign had proof. It seemed that KTVA personnel had failed to hang up a phone after leaving a message for Miller's campaign spokesman and that their later comments were recorded on the spokesman's voicemail. During the conversation, they laughingly considered twittering about chaos at a Miller rally, and falsely reporting that sex offenders were there. The station's general manager initially took no action, saying the remarks were taken out of context, but he later fired two producers involved, and canceled two newscasts to hold a staff meeting discussing ethics in journalism.
On November 3, the winner remained undetermined; write-in ballots comprised 41% of the vote, Miller had 34%, and McAdams had 24%. McAdams later conceded, but the result required a hand-count of the write-in ballots to see what names were written on them. Miller's campaign manager announced that several teams, including attorneys, would be going to Alaska to watch the ballot count. Miller gained about 2,100 votes in the count of absentee ballots that was done on November 9 in Juneau, and trailed the write-in votes by 11,333 at the end of the day. The hand count of the write-in ballots began on November 10. After two days, the Alaska Division of Elections had examined about 48 percent of the ballots and had tallied about 98 percent of them as votes for Murkowski, despite objections from Miller's team of observers to spelling errors, legibility, and additional words such as "Republican". When the last of the more than 100,000 write-in votes were counted on November 17, the Associated Press and the Republican Party of Alaska called the race for Murkowski. At that point, Murkowski's lead was more than 2,000 votes larger than the number of ballots challenged by Miller. On November 18, Murkowski declared victory, but Miller did not concede the race.
Miller hoped to win the Senate seat by means of a federal lawsuit that he filed on November 9, 2010. He alleged that Alaska election officials were violating the Elections Clause of the U.S. Constitution and the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment because they were using a voter intent standard to determine which ballots to count for Murkowski. He argued that the State statute regarding write-in votes should be strictly applied and asked the federal court to throw out all the ballots that misspelled the name "Murkowski", or that did not write in Murkowski's name exactly as it appeared on the list of write-in candidates.
He cited an Alaska election statute that states: "The rules set out in this section are mandatory and there are no exceptions to them. A ballot may not be counted unless marked in compliance with these rules." Election officials said that state case law allowed them to use discretion in counting ballots with misspellings or other variations.
The first judge assigned to the case recused himself because he said he had a negative opinion of Miller dating to 2004 when he was Miller's judicial supervisor. Miller filed a preliminary injunction as part of the suit, asking that the federal judge immediately order the State to stop counting the ballots, due to irreparable harm that would happen if the counting continued, but the request was denied.
The votes challenged by Miller's team were put in separate boxes, leaving it to the lawsuit to decide whether they would be counted for Murkowski. On November 11, the Miller campaign alleged it had received reports of voter intimidation and fraud and that it would be filing a lawsuit in Alaska state court asking for voters rolls for certain precincts to determine whether the precincts had counted more ballots than there were registered voters. Miller told Fox News Channel on November 18 that his campaign may request a recount, investigate the voting machines, and look into whether the absentee ballots for the military were mailed in a timely fashion. The federal judge held the suit could be decided by reference to State law, and directed Miller to file in State court, which he did on November 22, stopping the certification of election results and possibly delaying the seating of a second Senator for Alaska at the beginning of the new term in January.
Miller's Alaska state court lawsuit essentially repeated his federal suit allegations, but added new charges of voter fraud, claiming that precinct election officials had allowed voting without proper identification, and claiming that identical handwriting was suspiciously found on multiple ballots, which was also a violation of the requirement that a voter must personally pen a write-in ballot. Miller offered a new argument at a December 8 hearing; that hundreds of convicted sex offenders and possibly other felons were allowed to vote in the November election. On December 10, the Alaska Superior Court ruled against all of Miller's claims, finding the hand count of the write-in ballots valid.
The court said that the State statute does not require perfect spelling, and said that if the State legislature intended exact spelling it, would have said so. The emphasis, the court said, should be on making sure voters are not disenfranchised The judge also wrote, "To allow for write-in votes with less than a perfect spelling of a candidate’s name, as long as voter intent is clear ...[is] a commonsense interpretation, which the court believes would be evident to most Alaskans”. The judge also rejected Miller's demands for a hand count of all the ballots cast in the election, not just those with write-in votes, because state law did not provide for it.
He dismissed Miller's claims of possible vote fraud as based on speculation, “Miller’s affidavits do not provide any facts of wrongful conduct at polling stations and not even circumstantial evidence of wrongdoing,” he said. The Miller campaign responded to the ruling by stating that votes that did not meet the standard established by the state legislature were not valid, and that that equal protection and fundamental fairness required a hand count of all the votes and an investigation of fraud allegations. The judge allowed a brief stay so that Miller could appeal to the Alaska Supreme Court.
On December 22, 2010, the Alaska Supreme Court upheld a lower court decision and denied Miller's suit. The high court, in its ruling, called voter intent "paramount," and said "any misspelling, abbreviation, or other minor variation in the form of the candidate's name on a write-in ballot does not invalidate a ballot so long as the intention of the voter can be ascertained." and "The State characterizes the standard urged by Miller as the 'perfection standard,' and we agree that such a standard would tend to disenfranchise many Alaskans on the basis of 'technical errors".
On December 28, U.S. District Judge Ralph Beistline dismissed Miller's claim and allowed certification of the election of Senator Lisa Murkowski to go forward without delay.
On December 30, 2010, Alaska state officials certified the election of Lisa Murkowski as the winner of the Senatorial election, making her the first U.S. Senate candidate to win election via write-in since Strom Thurmond in 1954. Miller conceded the race on December 31.
In June 2011, a judge found that Miller's lawsuit was aimed at winning the election and not in the interest of upholding the state constitution as Miller had claimed. He was ordered to compensate the State of Alaska approximately $18,000 for legal fees incurred by the State.
Despite a late-race endorsement of Miller by former governor Sarah Palin, former Alaska Attorney General and Commissioner of Natural Resources Daniel S. Sullivan won the primary on August 19, 2014, with 40% of the vote, having vastly outspent Miller (who gathered 32%) and Lt. Governor Mead Treadwell (25%) combined.
After Cean Stevens, the winner of the Libertarian primary stepped aside, Miller received the Libertarian nomination in order to again challenge incumbent Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski in the 2016 senate election. He said he would not be supporting Gary Johnson, the Libertarian presidential nominee, however, and would instead vote for Donald Trump. He is also, contrary to the Libertarian national platform, opposed to abortion and same-sex marriage. Miller again lost to Murkowski in a four-way race, taking 29% of the vote.
Miller supports an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would require a balanced federal budget and another amendment to the Constitution to give the President a line-item veto of specific spending items approved by Congress.
Miller also supports a suspension of all new entitlement programs and a suspension of all earmarks. He would allow federal funding of specific earmark projects once the federal budget is balanced, but only if Congress votes yes by a two-thirds majority for every such project after public hearings are held.
He supports a requirement that each bill enacted by Congress specify the provision in the Constitution that gives Congress the power to do what the bill does. He would also limit the scope of each bill and its amendments to only one issue.
He opposes federal aid programs such as federal farm subsidies, the federal minimum wage, and unemployment benefits.
He would eliminate the U.S. Department of Education.
Miller supports a repeal of the Seventeenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which would return the election of U.S. Senators to the state legislatures.
He would reduce American foreign aid.
He would vote to repeal the 2010 health care legislation.
He opposes cuts to Medicare or Social Security benefits for current retirees. He supports privatizing (or "personalizing") Social Security and Medicare for younger workers. He would remove the federal government as the social security provider and give states the option of providing their own social security type programs.
He has said that scientific evidence for global warming is "dubious at best".
Miller opposes abortion, including in cases of rape and incest, and would allow it only when the mother's life is in danger. He describes himself as pro-life.
He supports the death penalty.
Miller stated at a town hall meeting that he believed East Germany was an example of a nation taking effective measures to control the flow of people across a border. Miller believes illegal immigration is a “critically important” issue to deal with because of its economic effects on health care, education and employment. Miller wants to secure the border to stop more immigrants from entering America illegally and protect the country from possible terrorist threats. Miller does not believe the millions of immigrants already here illegally should be granted amnesty. Miller supports efforts by states such as Arizona to enforce immigration laws when the federal government will not, and he believes illegal immigrants should be deported when they come into contact with law enforcement officials.
Miller is married and the father of six children and the step father of two.