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Tech lobbyist plans Virginia Senate bid

As head of a tech industry group, Harris Miller spent a decade lobbying Congress. Now he hopes to try out the other side.

The longtime president of a prominent technology lobbying group representing such big names as Microsoft, Diebold Election Systems and eBay plans to vie for a U.S. Senate seat this fall.

Harris Miller, who stepped down last week as president of the Information Technology Association of America (ITAA) after about a decade of work, on Monday filed the federal elections paperwork that puts him in the running for the Democratic nomination in Virginia. He also launched an official campaign Web site, a blue-and-red affair that gives a broad overview of his intentions.

Harris Miller

Miller's bid would pit him against Republican incumbent Sen. George Allen. Allen was elected to the post in 2000, after one term as Virginia's governor, and is rumored to be a 2008 presidential hopeful. Miller, 54, appears to be the first Virginia Democrat to announce formally his candidacy in the 2006 race, the general election for which is scheduled for Nov. 7.

The announcement was not well-received by some in the tech community. Oracle, for one, opted not to renew its ITAA membership when it expired at the end of 2005--in part, it said, because of Miller's expected Senate candidacy.

"Oracle believes that the issues impacting our industry are not partisan, and Sen. Allen has been one of our industry's most effective advocates," Robert Hoffman, the company's vice president for government and public affairs, said in a statement sent to CNET News.com.

During his tenure with ITAA, Miller focused on a medley of issues of interest to major technology companies, including education, employment, offshoring, homeland security and taxes. He has been a major proponent of

In recent months, Miller also threw his support behind the Bush administration's position that the United States should not cede its historic influence over Internet domain names--a showdown that gained in notoriety during the fall but ultimately ended in a compromise of sorts.

Miller said he expects technology to be a major thread in his campaign platform. "It's the failure to use technology effectively in this country yet that I will be talking about a lot," he said Tuesday in a phone interview with CNET News.com.

He plans to zone in on matters such as bringing broadband to a wider swath of the United States, building a more high-tech health care system, training a broader pool of high-tech American workers and fostering a rise in telecommuting.

Those issues, he said, are "where, as a country, we're not doing our best." To meet those ends, he said the businessman in him would focus on reducing the deficit.

Miller's campaign site portrays him as a man with working-class roots, born to small business owners in a steel town in western Pennsylvania. After college and graduate school, he worked as a congressional aide and in the Carter administration.

He then moved to the private sector, where he spent about a decade "running a series of small businesses that specialized in banking, insurance, technology, agriculture and immigration issues," according to a biography posted on his site.

Miller lives with his wife in Fairfax County, just outside Washington, D.C., and has two grown children. A former chairman of the Fairfax County Democratic Committee, he has also served on other state advisory groups, including the Virginia Research and Technology Advisory Commission, the Virginia State Lottery Board, and the Governor's Commission on the Federal Funding of State Domestic Programs.