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

Ted Stevens Loses Alaska Senate Race

November 19, 2008 10:00 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
The latest vote tally indicates that Alaska Sen. Stevens has lost his re-election bid, though he may request a recount.

Most Votes Counted

With just 2,500 votes left to be counted, Democratic challenger Mark Begich is leading Republican incumbent Ted Stevens in the Alaska Senate race by 3,724 votes, according to MarketWatch.

Begich's victory leaves Democrats just two seats short of the 60 they need to create a filibuster-proof Senate. Races are still undecided in Minnesota and Georgia.

If his margin of defeat is within 0.5 percent of the votes cast, Stevens plans to seek a recount, The Washington Post reported.

Stevens was recently found guilty of failing to report that he had received $250,000 in gifts and home renovations. He said he does not plan to ask President Bush to pardon him before he leaves office.

There was speculation at one point that Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin could run for Stevens' Senate seat, according to Reuters. However, she said she wasn't interested in the job.

"No, I'm not planning on it because I think the people of Alaska will best be served with me as their governor," she stated.

What Re-election Could Have Meant

Had he won the election, Sen. Stevens could have 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 at one point during the vote counting, with 99 percent of Alaska's precincts reporting.

However, approximately 40,000 absentee ballots remained to be counted, and there were also 9,000 uncounted early votes and other "questioned ballots" for election officials to process.

Stevens is one of just a few sitting senators to go on trial. His colleagues could have expelled him from office or pressured him to resign if he beat Begich.

Stevens Maintains Innocence and Candidacy

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 have served 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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