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. email4kh

    Maybe he'll end up in the same prison as Alaska's governor.

    November 19, 2008 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  2. arc, Lugano CH

    It would be simply beautiful to see Ted Stevens live out the rest of what little time he has left in prison. He’s 85 years old. A 5-year sentence would be enough for a life sentence. This Republican criminal deserves never to breath free air again.

    November 19, 2008 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  3. NettenAZ

    Of course he will be pardoned. I think the current President will pardon him due to age, length of service to Alaska and that the people made the decision to let him go to maintain a little "dignity "versus having his peers vote him out. It doesn't mean that I agree or support that decision. I think if you break the law you should be held accountable.

    Unfortunately, Sen. Stevens will not gain any additional insight of his actions and his violation of trust as a representative of the Alaska people by going to prison as he still thinks he is not guilty of anything based on his latetst media sound bites.

    November 19, 2008 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  4. tyler (portland, OR)

    Yeah if this guy was elected again I think our system would have lost all credibility (or whats left of it)

    Most felons can barely get a job at McDonalds and some cant even vote, but they almost had one in the Senate? Idiocy.

    Good to see Alaska did something right. Would have been a tradegty if Stevens was replaced by Palin.

    November 19, 2008 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  5. Charles

    Palin is next.

    November 19, 2008 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  6. Ron , West Coast

    Happy Birthday senator , OOp`s , I mean ex-senator Stevens . We`ll miss your bitter partisanship, grumpy old man , senate hearings you chaired concerning the biig oil giants , when you would`nt let them be sworn in ,( now I dont have to wonder why ) because you were in the bag for them !..... I hope you spend the rest of your misarable daays behind bars .
    YOU CROOK .......

    November 19, 2008 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  7. Voter

    And after all the nice presents he's given himself...

    November 19, 2008 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  8. EndOfRepublicanEra

    2008 is the year that republican right wing Crooks got exposed I will cherish 2008 the rest of my life. I will pray and hope this is the end of the republican era.

    November 19, 2008 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  9. Praetorian, Fort Myers

    HD: here goes.....
    good riddance....scumbag....

    keep your "moose" killing Governor there with you.....

    How's that?

    November 19, 2008 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  10. Milhouse van Houten

    He's eighty-five and a convicted felon,isn't it about time he just went home to bed.

    November 19, 2008 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  11. karen

    I really do think there should be an age limit for elected officials. There is a need for new intelligent minds. 4 terms is ridiculous.

    November 19, 2008 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  12. Blue balloons

    It was disgraceful that he was allowed to even be qualified to run for re-election. I guess we're lucky, justice prevailed – twice.

    November 19, 2008 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  13. Carol

    I always wanted to visit Alaska...........but after getting to know Palin and Stevens............... I have no interest in going there. The people are a little too strange for me.

    November 19, 2008 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  14. Tex Ann ~~~~~~~

    Senator Stevens needs to just step back, take care of his personal life, and enjoy his retirement (on our tax dollars, by the way). Unfortunately, he will never be answerable to his convictions. Bush wil pardon him in January, so he will never serve a day or pay a dollar for his seven felony convictions. So he just needs to enjoy that fancy house and take care of his health and stay out of politics altogether.

    And by the way people, there's no need to malign the state of Alaska or it's residents just because you dislike Palin or Stevens. I don't particularly like either of them myself– but Alaska is a beautiful state and I've met some fine people there, so please cut Alaska & Alaskans some slack, okay?

    November 19, 2008 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  15. Bill Charlotte,NC

    Thanks for your gift to the country; by losing, Palin has a "door" closed to her "plowing through" to the Senate.

    November 19, 2008 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  16. rob

    another bitter ole man bites the dust-thank you God

    November 19, 2008 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  17. It takes two

    Do people realize the postpartisan era includes both parties?

    November 19, 2008 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  18. rjb

    Well its time Stevens and mabe for the better. It took a while but the verdict on the election is in and now we can get on with a new Life in politics.

    What do you poeple shooting off your mouths know about unions? not much.
    You talk like you were part of them and have no idea of whats going on. Kill the unions and your back to the 30's and depression. I dont hear the comments on how the bank mgr's screwed up and lost billions. Did you say fire the SOB's that take millions a year out while laying off the staff so the figures look better for a week when they are being looked at.
    You have a lot to learn just like Stevens did with his greed and buddies in the oil industries. With this kind of thinking God help us all

    November 19, 2008 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  19. Vegas Barbie for Obama

    The best thing to come of this Stevens thing is that Palin canNOT now appoint herself as a Senator, interim or otherwise. Glad he lost his bid, now he's convicted, she's stuck as Governor...the whole country sleeps better.

    November 19, 2008 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  20. wanda a.

    May God Bless Him!!!!!!!!!

    November 19, 2008 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  21. beth

    so much for Palin being able to step into Stevens' place....guess she won't be running for President in 2012....BOO HOO!!!! feel my pain!!!!

    November 19, 2008 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  22. Turn Texas BLUE

    PARDON! I guess, now can you pardon your V.P form his indictment???

    November 19, 2008 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  23. Shane


    November 19, 2008 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  24. Cynthia; Bham

    It looks like Senator Stevens was given a lesson that for every action there is a reaction. Let's see if Palin if next – you betcha!

    November 19, 2008 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  25. Doug R.

    Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) is a convicted felon and a criminal. He was also not re-elected!! That's the Birthday present you deserve, crook.

    November 19, 2008 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
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