By Yereth Rosen
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Reuters) - Failed Senate candidate Joe Miller must reimburse Alaska more than $17,000 in legal fees and costs incurred during his fight to overturn Lisa Murkowski's write-in victory, a state judge ruled on Friday.
Miller, a Tea Party favorite, beat the more moderate Murkowski in the Republican primary. But she then mounted a write-in candidacy in the general election and beat him by about 4.5 percentage points.
Miller sued to overturn the results, arguing that elections officials improperly counted write-in ballots, but was rejected by a Superior Court judge, a ruling that was upheld at the state Supreme Court.
State officials asked a judge to compel the former candidate to reimburse the state for part of the costs, a request that Superior Court Judge William Carey approved.
Carey, in his ruling, said that Miller did not qualify as a public interest litigant because his lawsuit sought to secure something of value for himself: A Senate seat with a $174,000-a-year salary and other personal benefits.
"The main thrust of this action was not, in this court's view, to altruistically promote and preserve constitutional protections, but to win an election, with the political and pecuniary benefits that would accrue thereby," Carey wrote.
Miller, a Fairbanks attorney who was backed by former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, had challenged Murkowski as too liberal and too prone to compromising with Democrats.
Murkowski won the general election with the support of Alaska Native groups, labor unions and other voting blocs that typically back Democrats.
The state said in court motions that it spent about $100,000 in total to defend the election results against Miller's legal challenge. State law allows prevailing parties to get partial reimbursement in certain cases.
John Tiemessen, Miller's attorney, said Friday he had not seen Carey's order and could not yet comment on whether the candidate would appeal.
Carey also ordered Murkowski to reimburse the state $400 in costs, as she did not prevail in her attempt to be credited for some of the dismissed write-in ballots.
(Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Peter Bohan)