Alaska senator Ted Stevens, Ted Stevens conviction, Ted Stevens re-election
Gerald Herbert/AP
Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska

Ted Stevens Leads in Alaska Senate Race

November 05, 2008 02:57 PM
by Isabel Cowles
Stevens leads in the Alaska Senate race, but 40,000 absentee ballots remain to be counted.

Will Convicted Senator Be Re-elected?

If Ted Stevens maintains his current lead in the Alaska Senate race, he could become the first senator to be re-elected to office, despite being found guilty of a crime. According to The New York Times, he led Democratic challenger Mark Begich 48 percent to 47 percent, with 99 percent of Alaska's precincts reporting.

However, approximately 40,000 absentee ballots remain to be counted, and there are also 9,000 uncounted early votes and other "questioned ballots," the Boston Herald reported. It could be days before the election is finalized.

Stevens is one of just a few sitting senators to go on trial. If he wins, his colleagues could expel him from office or he could be pressured to resign.

Another Alaska congressman, Rep. Don Young, currently has the lead in his bid to retain his House seat. Like Stevens, Young is also under investigation for connections to Bill Allen, the former CEO of VECO Corp. who was convicted of bribing lawmakers.

Stevens Maintains Innocence and Candidacy

Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens was charged with seven counts of lying about Senate disclosure forms as he failed to report more than $250,000 in personal amenities and gifts.

Stevens, who has represented Alaska for 40 out of its 49 years of statehood (the territory became a state in 1959), has enjoyed a wide base of support in Alaska. Many of his constituents call him “Uncle Ted” for his ability to garner federal funds for state projects.

The senator maintains that he is not guilty, and has indicated that he will appeal the charges. Stevens asserted in a written statement, "I am innocent. This verdict is the result of the unconscionable manner in which the Justice Department lawyers conducted this trial. I ask that Alaskans and my Senate colleagues stand with me as I pursue my rights. I remain a candidate for the United States Senate."

If elected, Stevens would serve his seventh term as representative of Alaska.

Opponents are seizing the chance to shift Alaska leadership into Democratic hands. Patti Higgins, who chairs the Alaska Democratic Party, said in a written statement, “Senator Stevens' felony convictions are very serious and he should immediately resign from the Senate. Alaskans deserve better from their public officials, it's time for us to elect an ethical and honest senator who will move this state forward."

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin offered a reserved reaction to the charges made against Stevens. Despite her image as a corruption fighter, Palin did not demand that Stevens resign or drop out of his re-election race. "I'm confident Senator Stevens will do what's right for the people of Alaska," Palin said in a statement.

Related Topic: Stevens verdict a “stain on a GOP brand”

According to the Los Angeles Times before Election Day, “[Stevens’] verdict is yet another stain on a GOP brand... Although it shouldn't directly hurt a specific Republican candidate, it adds to a general malaise that has enveloped the party—and which many GOP officials fear will only get thicker with next week's election results.”

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