Calls mount for Stevens to step down, but when?

Posted: Wednesday, October 29, 2008

WASHINGTON - A growing chorus of Republicans on Tuesday called for Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens to resign from a seat he's held for four decades after his conviction on seven felony charges.

Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire

But with the party bracing for losses in the upcoming election, many hope Stevens will first win re-election next Tuesday, and then resign to give Republicans a chance to fill the seat with a fresh GOP face.

Stevens, 84, was convicted Monday of lying about hundreds of thousands of dollars in home renovations and gifts he received from a corrupt oil contractor. The verdict came down just a week before Election Day, too late for Republicans to put someone new on the ballot against Democrat Mark Begich.

Nevertheless, Republican presidential nominee John McCain, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, urged their Senate colleague to resign.

That Stevens has a chance of winning Tuesday is a testament to his storied political career, which dates back to before Alaska's statehood. If he wins, then steps down, a special election would be held to replace him.

"If a resignation is going to happen, the nation gains nothing by having it happen before the election," said Mead Treadwell, an Alaska Republican and longtime Stevens supporter who is among the state's largest McCain donors.

Stevens has given no indication he's even considering resignation. His spokesman did not return messages seeking comment Tuesday.

Following his conviction, Stevens forcefully declared that he remained a candidate. He asked for patience from his colleagues while his appeals play out, and he announced that he was heading back to Alaska to campaign.

Some Republicans were not so patient.

"Service in the Senate demands the highest ethical standards," Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., said Tuesday. "Unfortunately, his conviction proved that he has failed to meet those standards and he should resign immediately."

"We're frustrated because of the time frame. We're disappointed he didn't step down before this," said Alaska state Rep. Wes Keller, R-Wasilla, who plans to vote for Stevens in hopes that he'll win, then resign.

"Had this trial taken place significantly before the election, I'd say he ought to step down. Now, there isn't enough time," said Alaska House Speaker John Harris, R-Valdez. "I hope he wins, and we'll see what happens after that."

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