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ANCHORAGE - U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens wants more years on the job.
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Stevens, who turns 83 on Saturday, announced Wednesday that he will be running for re-election in 2008. The senator, who has held the job for 37 years, said he has more work to do on health care, education, fisheries and infrastructure to help build Alaska's economy.
Stevens has had a rough November. The Republicans lost their majority membership in both houses of Congress. He will lose his Commerce Committee chairmanship because of that. He no longer will be third in line to the president and will have to give up the president pro tem office suite.
"Serving in the U.S. Senate continues to be the greatest honor of my life, and that is why in 2008 I intend to once again ask the voters of Alaska to allow me to represent them," Stevens said in a statement. "While the recent election did not go my party's way, I come out of the campaign more determined than ever to fight for Alaska's interests in Washington, D.C."
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Stevens is the second-oldest U.S. senator, behind Robert Byrd, who is almost 89 and just won another six-year term representing West Virginia.
"I never have anticipated Ted retiring because he's going to retire to what? It's kind of like admitting his life is over, basically. He's got a very exciting job. As long as he can still do it, I'm sure he wants to do it," said Marc Hellenthal, an Anchorage pollster.
Stevens' supporters say his age is of no concern.
"He's got more energy than most people do," said his campaign treasurer, Anchorage lawyer Tim McKeever.
Stevens already has been raising money and is gearing up for whoever might run against him, McKeever said.
Republicans are already looking to regain control in 2008, and much of their deliberation this week has been about how best to do that. Since incumbents are generally more secure, one way the party can bolster its chances is to make sure their members don't retire.
Rep. Don Young, in an interview with Alaska reporters Tuesday, said he'll be making that point to his fellow House members as the party seeks to restore itself to dominance.
"One of the reasons I'm hanging around here is, I've got to convince my other members not to retire," Young said. "That's one of our biggest challenges, (saying) 'Listen, you have a responsibility not only to the nation but to the party to stay."'