At the risk of being nicknamed the million-dollar man, Pittsburgh lawyer Templeton Smith Jr. insisted on a costly - and likely fruitless - recount in the close race for a fourth seat on the Pennsylvania Superior Court.

The recount is expected to be completed by tomorrow, with the winner certified next week. Secretary of State Pedro Cortes estimates that the recount could cost taxpayers as much as $1.3 million.

That's a hefty price tag at a time when the state faces budget shortfalls, including cuts at the environmental protection agency and historical sites like the Brandywine Battlefield.

It makes even less sense since there's little doubt about the outcome of the judicial election. Few votes are outstanding, and the count certainly isn't likely to alter much in the 50 counties that use electronic voting machines.

But Smith insisted on the recount and isn't concerned about any public backlash over the cost. In fact, he questions whether it will cost as much as the Democratic Rendell administration says.

Perhaps. But that doesn't make it OK to waste less money.

"I'm not in this for a popularity contest," acknowledges Smith, who is a Republican.

Smith says he's mostly interested in honoring the state legislature's intent in passing a law some years ago that mandated automatic recounts when races are so close.

While Smith is correct that the legislature mandated the recount when elections are this close, the law also provides candidates the discretion to waive a count if there's no evidence of fraud.

That's certainly the case here. The two other runners-up, both Democrats, waived their right to a recount.

For now, Democrat and Philadelphia Judge Anne E. Lazarus stands as the winner.

She was endorsed by this Editorial Board after the state bar association lauded her for "superior writing ability, knowledge . . . and exceptional judicial temperament."

No knock against the losing candidates, but Lazarus should be a fine appellate judge - and it didn't have to cost state taxpayers an extra $1 million or so to find out who won.