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. N. S. Huntsville, Al

    He was too old anyways good ridens Stevens.

    And really who cares?

    November 19, 2008 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  2. Barbara in NC

    Buh bye ! Don't let the door hit you in the butt. And keep your wolf-killing governor up there with you.

    November 19, 2008 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  3. Grog in Ohio

    Let's all thank at least some Alaskans for having some sense. Now... about that governor of yours....

    62 days till the end of the Bush administration.

    November 19, 2008 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  4. Elizabeth - Texas - Former Republican

    Sarah Palin is going to be next.

    November 19, 2008 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  5. Nick

    I wonder if the reason the race is this close is this...

    If re-elected, there would have probably been a special election, but until then, Palin would have had to place somebody there, and there was speculation it would be herself.

    ... maybe the people of Alaska don't want her there anymore, and if their way to get rid of her faster is for her to go to Washington, then so be it.

    November 19, 2008 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  6. Sarah Palin

    I demand a recount.

    November 19, 2008 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  7. California Gold

    Guess this isn't going to be "a door of opportunity Jesus provides" so Missy Sarah can "plow through that door" to be a Senator.

    November 19, 2008 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  8. Jan

    It's not as though no democrat ever took favors–wasn't it Rezko that Obama bought property from at lower than value? Oh–he was forgiven by the electorate because he was "the one" chosen by Oprah. What a bunch of low life hypocrits the dems are. And how many democrats did they send to Alaska? Over 200? they must have paid off the poor fool who fessed up to giving a Senator a break on costs.

    November 19, 2008 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  9. Bruce

    I am sure Bush will pardon him....

    November 19, 2008 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  10. values

    This is what you republicans call a patriot. This guy has done alot of stealing in his time. The golden standard for repubs ha ha ha ha.

    November 19, 2008 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  11. Obama Victim

    Stevens will probably get a spot in Obama's administration......The Messiah is re-cylcing every other DC has been

    November 19, 2008 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  12. Linda

    It is sad to see this happen. It is in the interest of the country that all retire/leave U.S. public service with honor. He should be ashamed that he put himself and his state before country.

    November 19, 2008 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  13. Citizen

    Happy birthday you crook.

    And if Bush pardons him, I hope that the new adminstration adds the time to Bush's upcoming prison sentence.

    November 19, 2008 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  14. Don

    I grew up in Alaska.
    I never thought I would see the day when the people of Alaska voted him out. I truley thought he would die in office at the age of 98. Or have to retire due to extreme old age like Strom Thurman. It took seven felonies to convince those old sourdoughs to vote agains "Uncle Ted" Even with the conviction, almost half of them still voted for him.

    It has been an incredible election. The tide has turned, It is a new world today.

    November 19, 2008 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  15. Matt

    See ya...wouldn't wanna be filthy crook.

    November 19, 2008 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  16. HD

    OK, before you criticize you need to learn how to spell "riddance" and come up with a more intelligent insult than "wolf-killing".

    November 19, 2008 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  17. Red, Red WHINE!!

    One dirt bag gone.....quite a few more to go.

    How to make sure there are no corrupt politicians in office? Simple: Vote out all of the republicans!

    November 19, 2008 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  18. Tim

    Hurray Alaska. You've restored my faith in the American people.

    Now if you could only do something about your governor!

    November 19, 2008 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  19. Linda

    The ethical woes are not just a GOP thing. Perhaps the phrasing should be reworded. The ethical woes belong to CONGRESS. The folks in Alaska are to be commended for throwing out a crook, even though he was a huge boost to the state. Folks in Louisiana are about to reelect a crook who does nothing for the state. It is so obvious that we need term limits for congress. Democrats or Republicans they are mostly a bunch of scum sucking crooks who have no interest in doing what is best or right for this country.

    November 19, 2008 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  20. gAIL AL.

    Is there not an age limit on these old crooks. Why are the people in Alaska electing an old man like him to start with. Convicted on federal charges against him, he needs to be in jail. Stealing is a crime.

    November 19, 2008 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  21. joeb

    It couldn't have happened to a nicer guy!

    November 19, 2008 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  22. Tulsa

    Awww, poor Ted. Haven't had a good nights sleep in months. Tough.
    Should have told your oil field buddies no.
    You're a felon and you should be doing hard time.
    Bush will pardon this creep.... and everyone else that has been involved with the last 8 years of his corrupt administration. Thanks REPUBLICANS. Now leave, and don't come back.

    November 19, 2008 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  23. Greed is not good

    Justice has been served. He got kicked out of office by the voters and hopefully will go to jail soon for taking bribes.

    November 19, 2008 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  24. Catholic-mom-4-OBAMA

    THANK GOD!!! I could not believe that Alaskans would elect a FELON! Honestly!

    I wish, Mark Begich, and his family Godspeed!


    November 19, 2008 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  25. Vicki5

    Unless he's been covering up more mis-deeds, I have to believe he is rather relieved.

    November 19, 2008 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
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