(CNN) – Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin said Thursday she believes voters deserve another chance to consider electing Ted Stevens to the U.S. Senate now that federal prosecutors have decided to drop their case against him, and supports a re-match between the former senator and Democrat Mark Begich.
Begich defeated Stevens last November soon after the incumbent was convicted on ethics charges.
"Many voters did not choose Stevens because they were told he was guilty, and now, after the election we see there was improper conduct in his trial, so how fair an election was that?" asked Palin, in an email to an Alaska Public Radio reporter. CNN has confirmed the authenticity of the e-mail.
"I agree with other Alaskans who would like to see an election that's free from improper influence, and I can't imagine how Mark Begich could argue that," she continued.
(updated after the jump with Begich camp response)
Palin told the Anchorage Daily News that she does not want to "split hairs" on whether Begich should resign, while agreeing with state Republican party officials calling for a special election.
But the Fairbanks News Miner reported that the governor did back the GOP's position that Begich should step down. A journalist for the paper e-mailed Palin a copy of a statement by the state's Republican party Chairman calling for Begich's resignation. Palin responded: “I absolutely agree.”
Asked by the paper to confirm that answer meant Begich should resign for the election to take place, Palin replied: “Yes.”
Palin spokeswoman Megan Stapleton repeated that position to Politico. “She absolutely agrees that there should be a special election. Stepping down to hold the special election would be the right thing to do,” Stapleton said.
Begich spokesman Max Croes told CNN Friday that the Stevens criminal case was never part of the Begich campaign. "He did not use the Stevens trial as an issue," Croes said. He declined immediate comment on Palin's support of a re-match between Stevens and Begich.
Begich, a former mayor of Anchorage, issued a statement Thursday noting he "got into the Senate race long before Senator Stevens' legal troubles began."
"I'm honored to serve Alaskans for the next six years," he said.
Stevens, 85, will be at a hearing in Washington Tuesday as a judge reviews a Justice Department request to drop the case against the longtime Alaska senator because of prosecutorial misconduct. Stevens has not yet indicated any interest in returning to public office.
UPDATE: Begich Friday was on his way from Washington to Alaska and was not available to comment on Palin's latest remarks. But his press secretary, Julie Hasquet, told CNN that "Sen. Mark Begich is not going to resign, no matter who's asking."
She acknowledged the story has been given new life as a result of Palin's remarks in support of state Republican party calls for Begich to step down as part of a special election. "It's ridiculous. Sen. Begich won very fairly," said Hasquet. "People made up their minds before there was a conviction of Ted Stevens."
Begich is likely to face the question directly during a previously scheduled media availability Monday in Anchorage.