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Candidates for state office express disappointment in Stevens

Posted: Friday, October 31, 2008

Like their Republican counterparts did earlier this week, challengers vying for state offices representing the Kenai Peninsula expressed disappointment after seeing Sen. Ted Stevens convicted by a federal jury.

Stevens was found guilty Monday of seven counts of lying on financial disclosure statements, all felonies.

Nels Anderson, Democratic Party candidate for Sen. Tom Wagoner's District Q seat, said he's no fan of earmarks, but Sen. Stevens deserves his reputation as Alaskan of the Century after bringing so much public funding and attention to the state. As for the conviction, Anderson said Stevens doesn't see himself as guilty, and in a way, neither does Anderson.

He made some mistakes, but I don't believe this guy's a crook," he said. "He probably broke the rules. The government made that case. But he (Stevens) perceives himself as ethical, and I wouldn't question that."

Anderson supports Stevens' opponent, Democratic Party nominee Mark Begich, the mayor of Anchorage, who he said had the welfare of Alaska at heart.

"Mark Begich is a pragmatic person. He's not toeing any party lines," he said. "I think he'll be an excellent representative for Alaska."

But he also said he had no idea what Stevens' conviction would do in terms of voter reaction at the polls next week.

"I wouldn't be surprised if the people of Alaska elected him again," he said. "He could be pardoned by the president and go on being a senator."

Other the other hand, noted Anderson, Stevens might step down after being re-elected to clear the way for a special election.

"I don't know what that ploy is or have a clue what Alaska voters would do," Anderson said.

Democrat Dick Waisanen, running for Rep. Kurt Olson's District 33 seat, said he doubted Alaskans would re-elect Stevens given the jury had found him guilty on all seven charges, and quickly.

"Sen. Stevens had his day in court as our Constitution provides and was found to have broken the law," Waisanen said. "He could avoid a long and expensive process by stepping down this week."

It is unlikely Stevens would be successful on appeal, Waisanen added, "because of the tape where he admits to Bill Allen that he might have to go to jail for this."

The fact that Stevens' Republican peers have been asking him to resign is another factor. Stevens could be voted out of the Senate should he be re-elected Tuesday, Waisanen said.

"Personally, I want to thank Sen. Stevens for his years of service and I am sorry his career has ended this way," he said. "This is an example of why we need to vote out incumbents who have been part of the problem. We now know that Bill Allen left very few politicians untouched, we just don't know the rest of the story, yet."

Kelly Wolf, running as a nonpartisan candidate for District 33, noted Stevens' "long and distinguished career," and added that Stevens had assisted him and his family several times, including, he said, from ensuring U.S. soldiers in Iraq -- Wolf's son is one -- had the proper equipment to endorsing habitat restoration work along Alaska's popular fishing streams.

"The senator has been there for Alaska," he said.

But he also said a dark cloud covers the senator's service to Alaska and he's been convicted, right or wrong.

The thing for the "Alaska Statesman" to do, Wolf said, "is announce his apologies to Alaska," seek their support on Nov. 4, and if re-elected "resign his seat putting forward an opportunity for a conservative Republican or independent to step forward in a special election to run for his seat to beat Mark Begich."

He then added that he thought, "The real criminals need to be pulled out from under their rocks and tried for crimes of bribing public officials as the snakes that they are."

Tim Evans, running against incumbent Republican Rep. Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski, in District 34, said that during his more than 40 years in Alaska he's voted for the Stevens many times.

"I have met and talked with Sen. Stevens a few times and though we did not always agree, I have respected his opinion," he said Thursday. "It is very unlikely that an appeal will be successful. Sen. Stevens needs to decide if he wants to drag his family and our state through it."

The trial made it clear that Stevens was a personal, close friend of Bill Allen, who has admitted to criminal charges, Evans said.

"The taint of corruption has touched all who have been connected, and especially those who have taken money and gifts from Bill Allen and his VECO employees. It saddens me to say it, but I do believe Sen. Stevens should resign and allow the healing to begin," he said.

Philip Alderfer, who hopes to unseat Rep. Paul Seaton, R-Homer, from his District 35 seat, said it was a sad day for Alaska politics and for a man who had become such an institution in the state.

"He has the right to appeal, and I'm sure he will, and the process will continue," Alderfer said.

"I don't necessarily believe he should resign; that would throw even more confusion into the race. I'll continue to support Mark Begich and hope his victory will clarify what is going on now."

Alderfer said Stevens had built up an incredible rapport with state residents and enjoys a lot of support, despite the conviction.

"I'm sure he is doing what he feels is best," he said.

Hal Spence can be reached at hspence@ptialaska.net.



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