One of the most conservative members of the Alaska Legislature called for some of the state's most prominent Republican politicians to step aside.
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In a letter to the Fairbanks News-Miner, published Sunday, Rep. Mike Kelly, R-Fairbanks, said he'd like to see both U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens and U.S. Rep. Don Young announce their intent to retire and not run for re-election.
Kelly also said he thinks state Sen. John Cowdery, R-Anchorage, one of the most powerful members of the Alaska Legislature and chairman of the Senate Rules Committee, should resign now and allow Gov. Sarah Palin to appoint a replacement before an upcoming special session on oil taxes.
He added that Randy Ruedrich, chairman of the Alaska Republican Party, should step aside and transition to a new party leader.
"Seeing these positive steps, the popular and conservative Gov. Palin may feel more comfortable working with a team of Republican leaders to restore the confidence of Alaskans in their government and lead Alaska to a bright future," Kelly wrote in the letter.
Stevens, in Juneau on Tuesday for the dedication of the Ted Stevens Marine Research Institute, brushed off Kelly's call.
"Oh, that's not the first time that's happened," Stevens said. "I've had that happen two or three times in my career. This is a free country."
He continued his policy of not commenting about the federal ethics investigation into his relationship with oil fields services company VECO Corp. At one point, he accused an Associated Press reporter of trying to ask indirect questions about the controversy.
"Let's keep all that out, now. I'm not going to answer any question indirectly at all into the investigation. That's out," he said.
Steve Dougherty, spokesman for Young, called Kelly's letter "mean-spirited," but declined further comment.
Cowdery had no comment, said Jeff Turner, spokesman for the Senate Working Group, the bi-partisan majority in control of the Alaska Legislature and of which Cowdery is a member.
FBI agents searched Cowdery's office last year, but he was not among those indicted on corruption charges with others in May.
For Ruedrich, Kelly's letter did not mark the first time he was called out by a politician. Ruedrich was challenged by Palin when both were members of the state Oil and Gas Commission. She accused him of using his position for political purposes and resigned in protest.
Ruedrich said he would not be resigning, despite Kelly's letter.
"Alaska Republicans elected me to be their chairman," he said.
"Since then I've directed the party's efforts through the '06 elections," he said. "I was very pleased to see us retain the governor's mansion and control of both bodies in the Legislature."
Kelly told The Associated Press he's concerned the party will suffer defeats next year as a backlash because of corruption probes at the state and congressional level.
"We need enough time before 2008 to consider from 40,000 feet what healing actions are required so no one is hurt," Kelly said.
"I wanted to see if a taller dog would call for a slate of activities that would help restore voter trust and confidence. Nobody seemed to be heading down that trail, so I did it and carefully considered that it wouldn't be accusatory or contentious," he said.
Contact Pat Forgey at 523-2250 or firstname.lastname@example.org. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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