Senator brings buddy to Homer

Stevens has friend in Hawaii's Inouye

Posted: Sunday, August 19, 2007

The two elder statesman stood together Thursday a Republican from Alaska and a Democrat from Hawaii swapping stories, tag-teaming a few questions and praising each other for a job well done.

If your name is Ted Stevens these days, and you are up for re-election, it's good to know who your friends are. And by all accounts Thursday in Homer Stevens could count on Hawaii Sen. Dan Inouye.

The senator from America's other noncontiguous state has served with Stevens for 39 years in Congress, and they have much in common. They are both World War II veterans and octogenarians. Both have successfully used their influence to bring millions of federal dollars to their respective home states. And at the Alaska Islands and Ocean Visitor Center on Thursday, neither spoke of an ongoing FBI investigation of Stevens' ties to the oil field services company Veco Corp., or of numerous recent stories in the media of corruption among Alaska's congressional delegation.

The mood, instead, was lighter Thursday, as more than 100 Homer citizens stood and watched Homer Mayor James Hornaday give both men keys to the city.

Afterward, Stevens called Inouye his "closest friend in the Senate." Inouye returned the favor.

"We've been able to work together for all these years, and although my democratic colleagues might cringe when I say this, I'm here to tell the people of Alaska that I support him," Inouye said. "He's a good man. I'm fortunate to have Ted as my friend. And I hope that he gets back next year."

For nearly 40 years, Stevens hasn't needed much help or hope to get re-elected. His young state needed infrastructure and federal dollars and Stevens delivered time and again.

Perhaps it was the setting itself Thursday, inside a building built by the very dollars Stevens had appropriated, that kept the hard questions at bay. Or maybe it was respect for a man dubbed both "senator for life" and "Uncle Ted" by his constituents.

There were no protesters in Homer, like was seen earlier this month in Anchorage. Stevens repeated his opposition on the proposed Pebble Mine.

Then he turned to the upcoming election, saying he hasn't lost any clout in Washington because of the FBI investigation or national media reports.

"I don't have any predictions, but I don't have any fear of (the election.) It's up to the public whether we go back."

Steven's longtime friend then stepped to his aid once again.

"Do you want me to make a prediction?" Inouye said, pointing to Stevens. "He'll get re-elected."

Ben Stuart is a reporter for the Homer News.

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