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. Catholic-mom-4-OBAMA

    PS. Isn't it interesting how QUIET the far-right bloggers are on this development? Funny.

    November 19, 2008 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  2. Simmy

    Happy Belated Birthday Sen Stevens. I hope and pray that you do not go to jail. However, I thank you for that Senate seat! God bless you, and I mean it!

    November 19, 2008 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |

    I do not feel sorry at all for this 7 times felon who had the nerve to state his total unwillingness to resign.

    Stage I: This electoral loss will serve him well.

    Stage II: Behind bars.


    November 19, 2008 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  4. Boise, ID

    From the reddest state in the USA: It seems that all Republicans are crooks.

    November 19, 2008 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  5. frank


    November 19, 2008 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  6. Alice Newman Center Harbor NH

    Choices and consequences: I started using these "big" words and the "big" idea with my children as soon as I could.

    At 85, Stevens should have learned this lesson long ago – including the fact that his Republican "friends" would throw him under the bus and move on.

    November 19, 2008 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  7. Sarah Palin

    I am demanding a recount.

    November 19, 2008 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  8. tee

    He should not have had the opportunity to lose the race. Once he became a convicted felon, he should have been disqualified.

    November 19, 2008 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  9. Christine CT

    " I wouldn't wish this on my worst enemy"- Mr. Stevens, you're your own worst enemy. Take responsibility for your actions and stop playing that you're a victim.

    November 19, 2008 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  10. Ed, Santa Fe, NM

    Another self-serving political crook bites the dust..... Can Palin be far behind?

    November 19, 2008 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  11. LyonsPhilly

    Maybe a stiff huge fine and pension revocation. Jail is a bit much....

    November 19, 2008 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  12. LyonsPhilly

    Maybe Ma & Pa Palin will throw him a big birthday bash....

    November 19, 2008 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  13. janey

    corruption is not Ted Stevens for a measley few thousands bucks worth of favors. Corruption is the Democratic Party and the Freddie and Fanny Mess which brought about the collapse of our economy. Tell it like it is, MSM and stop trying to snow the American people.

    November 19, 2008 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  14. Ken in Dallas

    I love the sound of Republicans eating their own in the morning.

    November 19, 2008 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  15. Connie from Indiana

    Please give me $120,000. a year and I get to stay home and enjoy the house that corruption built , I would call that a very Happy birthday.

    November 19, 2008 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  16. The truth is what counts !!

    Have this crook on the next plane so he can join his best friend and his supporter Ph ailing Palin before he heads for that slammer but dont give her the key she would let him out .

    November 19, 2008 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  17. linus

    "Republicans... have moved on and now are solely focused on winning Georgia and Minnesota."

    Since all the votes in Minnesota have already been cast, how exactly do they plan to influence the outcome without disenfranchising voters? Shouldn't they really be focused on ensuring that the recount is accurate?

    November 19, 2008 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  18. MD

    Why was he still in the Senate anyway. He was way too old. If he had retired 10 years ago he wouldn't have been brought up on all those charges and gotten convicted.

    What the old Kenny Rogers song: " You gotta know when to hold em, know when to fold um, know when to WALK AWAY, know when to run."

    November 19, 2008 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  19. 3strikes

    hey stevens, at least you aint an adultering democrat like clinton(whom so many ill minded democraps are) or that one mayor from detroit, disgusting type of people

    November 19, 2008 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  20. Ken in NC

    Well Senator Stevens is about to leave one Government job as a Senator to move on to his next Government job as a JAIL BIRD. Congratulations Senator Stevens. Maybe next time you will do it the way the rest of us do it and pay for it yourself.

    November 19, 2008 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  21. Kel in Auburn, AL

    He'll probably be pardoned by Bush, since they're all part of the same "good-ol-boy" network that Palin worked so hard to uproot...

    November 19, 2008 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  22. Mickie

    Of course Bush will pardon him. He is just one of the many criminals in this government and they never have to take responsibility. He should be stripped of the retirement that taxpayers foot the bill for. I'm sick of these freeloaders when the rest of us barely make ends meet.

    November 19, 2008 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  23. David Goldman







    November 19, 2008 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  24. Janice in OK

    I live in a state – Oklahoma- that's just as stupid politically (if not more) than Alaska. Most Oklahomans would rather cut their right arm off than vote for a Democrat. I'm still shaking my head over the election results here.

    November 19, 2008 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  25. Lori

    I think people are being a bit cruel in the sense of how sharply they criticize. I've found that in life I've often made the same mistakes I've previously castigated people for. What Stevens did was wrong and illegal and he is paying for his crime. Let an old man alone.

    With that said, I voted Obama and I STILL BELIEVE IN MY PRESIDENT-ELECT. I trust him to the do the right things and pick the right people. I wish some of his other "supporters" would do the same.

    November 19, 2008 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
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