Stevens, Young keep campaigns low-key ahead of state election

Palin to return to state briefly before joining McCain in Arizona

Posted: Tuesday, November 04, 2008

ANCHORAGE - The stalwarts of Alaska's Republican delegation campaigned quietly Monday ahead of the General Election, in which both Ted Stevens and Don Young faced possibly the toughest tests after decades in office.

Meanwhile, their Democratic opponents were feeling confident and campaigning in the state's two largest cities.

Today also marks the return of Gov. Sarah Palin to the state for the first time in nearly two months. The Republican vice presidential candidate is scheduled to fly home to vote, and then immediately leave for Phoenix, where she will meet up with John McCain.

Her appearance comes hours after the Alaska Personnel Board released a report in which she was cleared of ethical violations when firing Walt Monegan, her former public safety commissioner.

Division of Elections Director Gail Fenumiai said she is expecting a very high voter turnout in today's election, but didn't offer a prediction of numbers.

More than 20,000 Alaskans already have taken part in early voting, nearly doubling the number of people who took part four years ago.

This year's election has put Alaska in the national spotlight like never before, with Palin on the national ticket and high interest in the Stevens race as he tries to hold to the job he's had since 1968.

The election comes just eight days after a federal court jury convicted him of seven felony counts that he lied on Senate disclosure forms to conceal more than $250,000 in gifts and home renovations.

Stevens, 84, the longest serving Republican in the U.S. Senate, didn't have any public appearances planned Monday beyond stopping at a sports bar to watch some Monday Night Football, his staff said.

Earlier in the day, he planned to meet privately with supporters and let a 2-minute informercial airing statewide Monday evening be his major centerpiece of campaigning ahead of today's vote.

In the ad, Stevens maintained he did nothing wrong, saying, "Sometimes innocent men are found guilty. This is one of those times."

He plans to appeal the convictions, said in the ad that as soon as his defense team clears his name, "I assure you I will continue to serve in the Senate when I earn your vote."

With less than 24 hours before the election, his opponent, Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich, 46, greeted dozens of raucous supporters gathered at the Democrats' field office in Anchorage.

Begich said Alaskans are looking for independent, ethical leadership and someone who will work across party lines in Washington, D.C. for the good of Alaska.

"We don't want to live in the past. We want to live in the future," Begich said.

In the House race, Young, 75, didn't have any major events planned beyond waving signs in Anchorage, said his spokesman, Mike Anderson.

His opponent, former state House Minority Leader Ethan Berkowitz, did the same in both Fairbanks and North Pole.

Berkowitz, 46, was very upbeat about his chances to unseat Young, who has been in office since 1973.

"It's looks great, we're feeling confident," he said Monday.

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