What Does Stevens Do Now?
With Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens within striking distance of an improbable victory for a seventh term, the question now is what the convicted felon will do to quell calls for his resignation by his congressional colleagues.
The 84-year-old Republican received what seemed to be a fatal political wound after his Oct. 27 conviction on seven felony charges of lying on financial disclosure forms about thousands of dollars of gifts and home improvements he'd received. Anchorage-based pollster Ivan Moore gave Stevens no chance of re-election, Roll Call reported.
Pre-election poll numbers showed Democratic challenger Mark Begich with a narrow lead on "Uncle Ted." But in the actual vote count, Stevens holds a 3,300-vote lead, with about 40,000 absentee ballots left to be counted.
If Stevens is indeed re-elected, he could face expulsion from the Senate, where it takes a two-thirds vote to get rid of a sitting senator.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, (D-Nev.) said Stevens would likely be removed and Sen. Mitch McConnell (Ky.), the re-elected Senate Republican minority leader, said that if Stevens "is re-elected and the felony charge stands through the appeals process, there is zero chance that a senator with a felony conviction would not be expelled from the Senate."
If Stevens resigns or is expelled, Alaska law says a special election would be held for his seat within 60 to 90 days. It's unclear whether an interim senator would be appointed by Gov. Sarah Palin. (The Alaska Supreme Court would have to decide that). The New Republic's Christopher Orr said it's "pretty much a no-brainer for (Palin) to run for the seat if the Republican incumbent is out of the picture."
Two of Stevens' fiercest supporters, fellow Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, both Republicans, have argued Stevens could keep his seat long enough to go through an appeal. (At his Jan. 26 sentencing, Stevens faces up to five years in prison on each count, although he will likely get far less and possibly just probation.)
Bill Canfield, a lobbyist, former Stevens aide and Republican election lawyer, told the Anchorage Daily News that the appeals process could take 18 months.
There's also a long-shot option: a presidential pardon. Stevens could ask to speed up his sentencing date before President Bush leaves office. Pardons are rare but at least one law professor gave such a move a chance:
"But this is Ted Stevens," Yale law professor Steven B. Duke told the Anchorage paper. "This is not Joe Sixpack. ... this is an extraordinary case."
By Derek Kravitz |
November 5, 2008; 5:08 PM ET
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