Ben Stevens withdraws re-election bid

Senate president seeks more time with his family

Posted: Thursday, July 06, 2006

ANCHORAGE - State Senate President Ben Stevens withdrew his bid for re-election Wednesday, citing a desire to devote more time to his family.

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In a statement distributed by pollster David Dittman, Stevens said he and his wife, Elizabeth, found it difficult to split time between Juneau and their home in South Anchorage.

"The length of the regular session, plus the extra special sessions, makes it difficult for families with young children," he said. "Some legislators feel they can handle it, at least while the children are infants, but it becomes more challenging as children grow older."

Stevens said his family soon would have three teenagers and a preschooler.

Stevens, 47, the son of U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, has been criticized for his high-paying consulting jobs in the oil and commercial fishing industries.

Ben Stevens was appointed to the state Senate in 2001 and ran unopposed in 2002.

He was the subject of an unsuccessful recall attempt and was fined by the Alaska Public Offices Commission for failing to disclose his chairmanship of the Alaska Fisheries Marketing Board.

He faced a strong challenge in the Republican primary in August from two party members, state Rep. Lesil McGuire and state Rep. Norm Rokeberg. Neither returned messages left at their offices by The Associated Press on Wednesday.

"I sincerely appreciate the opportunity to be of service, but in my opinion, anyone can be replaced, and those who think they can't be, need to be," Stevens said. "I also believe the voters in District N, and throughout Alaska, will be well-served by either Norm Rokeberg or Lesil McGuire."

Dittman said the sessions this year had been difficult for Stevens.

"Ben just told me it was a case of the regular session and then the special session occurring close together and not having much time with his family this summer," Dittman said.

He said he's surprised other legislators with children stay as long as they do.

"I don't think Ben's the first this has been an issue for," he said.

Former state Rep. Ray Metcalfe, who filed the recall petition, said he will continue to pursue his criticism of Stevens.

"I want some people prosecuted for the things I've seen going on," he said.

He contends that Stevens tried to undermine the Alaska Permanent Fund because of his consulting work for VECO Corp., an oil field services company. VECO in 1999 supported a campaign seeking voter permission to use Alaska Permanent Fund money for capital projects, an effort voters rejected.

If the permanent fund were used for government expenses, Metcalfe contends, there would be less pressure on Alaskans to obtain the highest possible payment for natural resources from companies that use them. He said Stevens had a conflict of interest by serving in the Senate at the same time as working as a consultant for the company.

Attempts by the AP to reach Stevens were unsuccessful Wednesday. Dittman's statement said Stevens would not comment beyond what was released.

The Division of Elections rejected the recall effort on the advice of the Department of Law. State attorneys said Metcalfe's recall application was vague and devoid of detail stating that Stevens acted improperly.

Valdez Mayor Bert Cottle, a Democrat who filed to run for Republican House Speaker John Harris' seat, also has withdrawn his candidacy, according to an updated candidate list from the state Division of Elections.

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