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Alaska for Alaskans

Politics | The Alaska delegation, save Sarah Palin, stand by Sen. Ted Stevens after his seven convictions on violating ethics

After his conviction on seven counts of corruption Monday, Sen. Ted Stevens resumed his re-election bid in Alaska. Prominent Republicans such John McCain, Sarah Palin, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell have called for him to step down. But some of his fellow Alaska Republicans haven't followed suit.

Both Rep. Don Young and Sen. Lisa Murkowski stand by the senator and said they would support him if he appeals the jury's "guilty" verdict. The solidarity is one indication that Alaskans have a loyalty that is deeper than those in the Lower 48 may understand.

Young implied the outcome of the Stevens' case would have been different if the senator had been tried by a "jury of his peers."

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Young won little favor with Washington, D.C., residents following his interview with the Anchorage Daily News. "[The jury] was in Washington, D.C., which most people in Washington, D.C., don't look very favorably on the Congress because we run them," he told reporter Lisa Demer on the day of Stevens' conviction. "I don't know why anybody didn't bring that out. They're not a self-governing city like they say they are. We actually make decisions for them. Makes us very, very suspicious."

Young may himself have to face a D.C. jury. Alaska's lone congressman is also under investigation for corruption. Furthermore, investigators are looking into his ties with Bill Allen, chief executive at oil company VECO Corp, the same man whose gifts to Stevens led to the senator's seven convictions.

Stevens has said he will fight the "unjust verdict" and will not step down from the Senate race. He could face a maximum sentence of 35 years in prison, though his actual sentence probably will be far less.

Murkowski said the prosecution's "gaffes" in Stevens' case were reason enough for Stevens to appeal. During the trial, the judge reprimanded the prosecution for withholding evidence that could have helped the defense.

"Ted Stevens is an honorable, hard-working Alaskan who has served our state well for as long as we have been a state," Murkowski said in a statement. Stevens was first elected in 1968.

There's still a chance he could win re-election in his hard-fought race with Democrat Mark Begich, the mayor of Anchorage. In that case, he could still face expulsion from his seat by a two-thirds Senate vote.

On the other hand, if he does step down, Sarah Palin, as Alaska's governor, may have to pick an interim to replace him. While Palin was the only member of the state's delegation to call for his resignation, she was slow to do so. Immediately after his conviction she said it was a "sad day" for Alaska and avoided a call for resignation. But along with McCain, she later insisted he step down.

Palin herself is under investigation in what has come to be known as "Troopergate," and a state ethics committee determined that she violated ethics laws in the firing of a state commissioner.

But she has repeatedly distanced herself from the Republican "good old boys' in the state in speeches, emphasizing her role in bringing down a corrupt political hierarchy within her own party.

By the rest of the delegation's refusal to call for Stevens' resignation, it looks like the good old boy network is still alive, though, after Stevens' convictions, perhaps not well.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Emily Belz
Emily Belz

Emily, who has covered everything from political infighting to pet salons for The Indianapolis Star, The Hill, and the New York Daily News, reports for WORLD Magazine from New York City. Follow Emily on Twitter @emlybelz.


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