November 19th, 2008
12:35 PM ET
14 years ago

Preston on Politics: A senator’s bitter birthday present

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens has lost a close election to Democratic challenger Mark Begich, the mayor of Anchorage."]
WASHINGTON (CNN) – Sen. Ted Stevens turned 85-years-old Tuesday, but his slice of birthday cake was served with a side of bitter. The one-time powerful lawmaker lost re-election to Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich.

He now heads home to Alaska, and quite possibly prison. Stevens was convicted last month on seven federal corruption charges for filing false statements on his Senate ethics forms.

It has been a hard fall for the one time chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. Stevens was once one of the most influential lawmakers on Capitol Hill, if not in the nation’s capital. As oil poured south from the Alaska pipeline – “Uncle Ted” as he is affectionately known in his adopted home state – made sure federal dollars flowed north. His diligence in sending what some critics describe as pork dollars helped to build the infrastructure of modern-day Alaska, which won statehood in 1959.

On Tuesday, Stevens expressed his frustration to reporters including my colleague Ted Barrett about the toll this ordeal has taken on him.

“I wouldn’t wish what I’m going through on anyone, my worst enemy,” Stevens told reporters in the Capitol. He went on to complain that he has not “had a night’s sleep in almost four months.”

And it has been a lonely four months for the veteran senator, who saw his Republican colleagues distance themselves from him. This did change Wednesday morning as National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Ensign opened his political briefing by stating that Democrats would have at least 58 seats in the new Congress.

Now, Democrats are just two seats away from a filibuster-proof majority with unresolved races in Georgia and Minnesota determining what will happen.

It was a bittersweet loss for Ensign. Stevens’ troubles added to a long list of Republican ethical woes in the past few years that have helped tarnish the GOP brand. But had Stevens won, Ensign predicted the Alaska senator would have been expelled by his Senate colleagues thus creating a special election. Under this scenario, Ensign predicted that Republicans would have held onto the seat and limiting Democratic gains by at least one.

As of early Wednesday afternoon, Stevens had not conceded the race and Ensign said that he would leave that up to him. But as far as Senate Republicans are concerned they have moved on and now are solely focused on winning Georgia and Minnesota – two contests critical to helping the GOP stage a strong defense against Democratic policies and President-elect Barack Obama’s agenda.

What will happen to Stevens is still unknown. He has yet to be sentenced and his fate now lies in the hands of outgoing President George Bush - who could pardon the one-time Capitol Hill titan and spare him prison time.

Filed under: GOP • Mark Begich • Preston on Politics • Senate • Ted Stevens
soundoff (111 Responses)
  1. Neal

    You know the thing is, Stevens deserves what he's getting, but it sure seems a bit odd, after all these years to have such small things, and amounts, take him down...

    November 19, 2008 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  2. Jeanie Washington

    Its sad, oh well after Palin anthing is possible.

    November 19, 2008 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  3. JamOne

    Congratulations to Mark Begich.

    Most importantly, this means that the Caribou Barbie has no need to appoint herself to the Senate as could have been the case if Ted Stevens had won.

    Please Alaska, in 2 years time, send that lipsticked Pit Bull with a Narcissistic Personality Disorder back to Wasila. So we can all breathe a sign of relief that she will be removed from the potential of ever holding any political office again,

    November 19, 2008 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |

    I might move to Alaska and run for Stevens seat in the senate if I dont become an over taxed millionaire after buying my bosses band.

    November 19, 2008 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  5. Nija

    Happy birthday with so many happy return to Jail time.

    November 19, 2008 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |


    November 19, 2008 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  7. mayah

    It is not nice to rub salt in anyones wounds, he is an American and served for the good of the people... I too love the choice for President, Elect OBAMA, time to unite as a nation...

    November 19, 2008 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  8. Sharon from Florida

    uh, ooh!

    November 19, 2008 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  9. itsbrkn

    The man is a convicted felon and deserves a sentence that reflects his crimes. He should not, under any circumstances, be treated differently than the rest of us. Should President Bush grant that man a pardon, it will just be another in a long line of arroganant actions he has shown for the law and the American people.

    November 19, 2008 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  10. Blue is my favourite colour

    Glad Begich has won this seat–just one more for the Dems, and no Palin in the senate, which is good. She will be too busy planning her daughter's shotgun wedding to be an effective senator anyway. No Palin in D.C. – EVER!

    November 19, 2008 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  11. rules in rules

    He's 85 folks...85. He is 12 years older than John McCain. He can not go to jail during such a latter period of his life. I voted for Obama but I hope Bush pardons him, he's too old to go to prison. He needs to pay the money back, give his pension to taxpayers, and forfeit any future in politics. When Begich term is over, Stevens will be 91. There no future for him, just let him live the rest of his miserable life away from the public.

    November 19, 2008 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
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