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. Red State Republican who voted for CHANGE!

    Congratulations Alaska! You got this one right!

    November 19, 2008 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  2. Don B. from Texas

    It's only fitting that Stevens will be "extinct" before the polar bears!

    November 19, 2008 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  3. K. B. Denver Colorado

    Do you guys ever post my comments there usually vary tempered and on

    Like i said glad to see the people of Alaska did not re-elect a convicted
    felon. also good to see god close that door on Sarah Palin.

    November 19, 2008 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  4. Evelyn Kafuko NC

    I was beginning to give up on Alaska and believing who ever said there was more reindeer than people in Alaska were right, because the reindeer cared more about there surroundings than the people did. But now it makes sense that the people in Alaska didnt vote a guy wrapped up in court back to senate. I would have crowned it the state where people have the same brain as reindeer if this senator got voted back.

    November 19, 2008 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  5. TJ

    You know, I despise conservatives. I despise republicans for what they have done to the country, for how they stole not one but two presidential elections back-to-back, and how they have plunged the bulk of us into financial chaos. But, despite all of that, the way they distanced themselves from Ted Stevens is not right. He was a loyal Republican. Yes, he did some illegal things, and yes, he did get caught, but his fall from grace-and loss in this election-I feel is more than enough punishment. Is the country going to be safer putting an 85-year-old man behind bars? I don't think so...

    November 19, 2008 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  6. rules in rules

    Please don't send this poor old man to prison. He lost his re-election bid on his birthday of all days. His 40 year Alaskan legacy has been tarnished. He has suffered enough. We can rename the Airport, prohibit him from taking any public office, and ask him to give the money he took back to charity. Prison time would be too much for 85 year old man. Just let him go about his way.

    November 19, 2008 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  7. Truth Hurts

    Did you guys here about Cheney and Gonzales getting indicted? The judge have not signed the indictment yet but the Texa's Grand Jury have!! Rove, Rumsfield, Cheney, Bush and the rest of the Klan need to be indicted on War Crimes, Treason and flat out lying!! Take them all out in handcuff before January 20th!!

    November 19, 2008 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  8. Jaye

    Stevens got what he deserved – now he needs to go to jail.
    These hoodlums get away with everything and it needs to stop.

    November 19, 2008 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  9. mitch

    he'll be pardoned by either bush or barack.

    November 19, 2008 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  10. Mike Dallas

    Could not have happened to a more deserving crook, uh, person

    November 19, 2008 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  11. MLD ND

    Looks like a change came to Alaska also. Watch out Sarah, you may be next. Better keep everyone involved in the building of your house under wraps.

    November 19, 2008 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  12. Jaye

    He's getting what he deserves electionwise – now he needs to go directly to jail.
    These crooked politicians that represent our country need to be ousted from office and face the consequences of their deeds.
    I'm sick of our country being shamed.

    November 19, 2008 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  13. Military Dude

    Awesome, with him out of the way and a door slammed shut in Palin's face , maybe Alaska's politics is starting to self correct. The Republican party is on its way out. I hope it dies a quick death so we can make some progress in the realm of humanity. They have set us back 50 years.

    November 19, 2008 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  14. I Just Said Thanks, but No Thanks to Another 4 years of g.o.p. corruption, arrogance and incompetence

    And Alaska just said "You're Welcome"
    Buh-Bye Senator "No".

    November 19, 2008 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  15. Get over yourselves

    Maybe he and Palin can share a cell???

    November 19, 2008 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  16. One-armed bandit for Obama

    Not all of us Janice.


    November 19, 2008 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  17. Matthew

    Stevens found guilty followed by another staggering loss for republicans, Cheney indicted on prisoner abuse charges, add those to the national disarray among the current republican party; times are 'a changin' and I couldn't be happier.

    November 19, 2008 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  18. Randy, San Francisco

    Pride comes before the fall. Too much greed and hubris. Anchorage should rename the air port.

    November 19, 2008 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  19. Greg, San Francisco, CA

    His defeat means we won't have to get used to saying 'Senator Sarah Palin'. Praise Jesus!

    November 19, 2008 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  20. geen

    the moron pardoning Stevens? why not....Ford had a deal with Nixon to pardon him....the moron will go down in history as the only president to leave absolutely nothing to his credit....what a legacy! Jan 21st cannot come soon enough..and, just as the world worried with anxiety over Nixon pushing the button, one can only wonder what in the hell the moron will do to other countries in his 2 remaining months in office...very VERY scary....

    November 19, 2008 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  21. KLEE

    Thank you Janice in Oklahoma you reinforce my hope for humanity!
    Glad I voted for Obama!

    This sure is a divided country – and so much venom floating around! In so many of the blogs.....the real rattle snakes should go hide – some people are just too scary!

    November 19, 2008 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  22. lovable liberal

    Indictment, conviction, and public humiliation, and Stevens would wish it on his worst enemy, but isn't that the just consequence of committing seven felonies?

    November 19, 2008 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  23. Cori from Colorado

    He fought the law, but the law won!

    November 19, 2008 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  24. Matt

    Mark my words: there is no indication that the Republican Party has learned one darn thing from the beating they took on November 4, 2008. They'll be earning themselves a Darwin Award soon enough when their insistence on continuing the nasty, negative, divisive and socially destructive politics of the past leads to the complete demise of the party.

    Oh wait...they don't believe in Darwin...typical...pretending the truth doesn't exist when it's inconvenient. They'll become their own proof of Social Darwinism and still deny the reality of it. How wonderfully ironic.

    November 19, 2008 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  25. J.P.

    On a related note, I sure am happy that new votes continue to surface in Minnesota, all mysteriously supporting Stewart Smalley. No voter fraud there. Nothing to see here. Keep moving. These aren't the droids you're looking for...

    November 19, 2008 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
1 2 3 4 5