Juneau leaders express surprise, support for senator

Juneau leaders express surprise, support for senator

Posted: Tuesday, October 28, 2008

For many of Juneau's Republican and Democratic political leaders, U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens has been their U.S. Senator for as long as they can remember.

Even those who disagreed with him on politics respected his passion for Alaska.

Now, with his conviction Monday on seven charges of taking unreported gifts from a oil industry executive, there's shock from both the left and the right.

"It's a sad day for Alaska; that's all I have to say," said Rep. Beth Kerttula, D-Juneau. Kerttula also is the Democratic leader in the state House of Representatives.

Republican Cathy Muñoz, hoping to win the House seat now held by Democrat Andrea Doll, said "it's really shocking."

"I think it's a very, very sad outcome for the family of Senator Stevens," she said.

Stevens' campaign issued a press release shortly after his conviction maintaining his innocence, accusing the prosecution of misconduct and reaffirming his intent to continue with his campaign for re-election.

Stevens said exculpatory evidence was hidden from his lawyers, a witness was kept from them and then sent back to Alaska, and government lawyers allowed evidence to be introduced that they knew was false.

"I will fight this unjust verdict with every ounce of energy I have," Stevens said.

Muñoz questioned the verdict as well.

"I think there were a lot of problems in the way the evidence was handled and presented," she said. "There are serious problems with this case."

Muñoz said she will continue to support him and vote to re-elect Stevens on Nov. 4.

"He's given his life to serve this state," she said.

Munoz' opponent, Incumbent Rep. Andrea Doll, agreed, but said it was Stevens himself who was responsible.

"It's a sad way to end a career for a man who has done some wonderful things for Alaska," she said.

"It's unfortunate, but he made some decisions and he has to take some responsibility for those decisions." Doll said.

Sen. Kim Elton, D-Juneau, said it was difficult to come to grips with the fact that Stevens, who's been a senator almost all of his adult life, might no longer be in Washington, D.C.

"I run out of fingers and toes when I try to count the things he's accomplished for Alaskans over the years," Elton said.

Even with Stevens pledging to continue the fight, Elton said that might not be enough.

"I think this really changes the dynamic. This can't be seen as good news for Ted Stevens' proponents," he said.

• Contact reporter Pat Forgey at 523-2250 or patrick.forgey@juneauempire.com.

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