Even though the indictment against Sen. Ted Stevens has been expected for more than a year, the state Republican Party in Alaska does not have a candidate ready to take Stevens’s place on the ballot. This is more bad news for Senate Republicans in what is looking like a Democratic year.
Stevens was indicted today by a federal grand jury of seven counts of concealing more than $250,000 in gifts from oil field contractor VECO Corp. The indictment alleges that Stevens received home improvements to his vacation home in Alaska, including a new first floor, garage, wraparound deck, plumbing, electrical wiring; as well as car exchanges, a Viking gas grill, furniture and tools. From May 1999 – August 2007, Stevens didn’t report these gifts on his Senate disclosure forms.
Stevens is the longest serving Republican senator. He has been in office since 1968. However, since the scandal broke he has seen his popularity in the state plummet to the point where in the July 17 Rasmussen Reports poll Anchorage mayor Mark Begich (D) now leads Stevens, 50%-41%.
The Democratic Party is targeting 11 of the 23 Republican held seats up for election this year, and they look poised to pick up seats in New Hampshire, Virginia, New Mexico, and Oregon. The Colorado senate race is listed as too close to call, and the Stevens indictment probably will push Alaska into the Democratic column.
The ironic part of this story is that Ted Stevens could end up hurting John McCain’s presidential campaign. Stevens and McCain have had some legendary disagreements over the years about pork barrel projects. Stevens is infamous for federal funding for the “bridge to nowhere” in Alaska, and for decades Stevens has been an expert at shifting federal dollars into Alaska, much to the displeasure of McCain. No matter who wins the White House, Democrats will likely pick up 7-9 Senate seats in November, and get close to the magic number of 60 votes needed to pass legislation.