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Stevens' loss echoes through Republican party

Posted: Wednesday, November 19, 2008

ANCHORAGE - Ted Stevens' loss Tuesday was another slap for Republicans in a year that has seen the party lose control of the White House, as well as seats in the House and Senate. It moves Democrats one step closer to the 60 votes needed to overcome filibusters in the Senate. Democrats now hold 58 seats, when two independents who align with Democrats are included, with undecided races in Minnesota and Georgia where two Republicans are trying to hang onto their seats.

Democrats have now picked up seven Senate seats in the Nov. 4 election.

"With seven seats and counting now added to the Democratic ranks in the Senate, we have an even stronger majority that will bring real change to America," Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, said in a statement.

The climactic count came after a series of tumultuous days for a senator who has been straddling challenges to his power both at home and in his trial in Washington.

Notwithstanding all that turmoil, Stevens revealed Tuesday that he will not ask President George W. Bush to give him a pardon for his seven felony convictions.

Stevens' future was murky at a time when newly elected members of both the House and Senate were on Capitol Hill for heady receptions, picture-taking sessions and orientation this week. Stevens, speaking earlier Tuesday in Washington, said he had no idea what his life would be like in January, when the 111th Congress convenes.

"I wouldn't wish what I'm going through on anyone, my worst enemy," he lamented to reporters. "I haven't had a night's sleep for almost four months."

His defeat could also allow Republican senators to sidestep the task of determining whether to kick out the longest serving member of their party in the Senate.

It is a testament to Stevens' popularity that he won nearly half the votes, even after his conviction. He routinely brought home the highest number of government dollars per capita in the nation - more than $9 billion in 2006 alone, according to one estimate.

With Stevens gone, "It's a big gap in dollars - billions of dollars - that none of the other members of the delegation, Begich, whoever, could fill," said Gerald McBeath, chairman of the political science department at University of Alaska Fairbanks. "There is no immediate replacement for him."

Following the trial, Stevens said he wanted another term "because I love this land and its people" and vowed to press on with an appeal. Professing his innocence, he blamed his legal problems on his former friend Bill Allen, the founder and former chairman of VECO Corp., the government's star witness.

Begich will be the first Democrat to represent Alaska in the Senate in nearly 30 years.



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