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Stevens Vows To Fight To Keep Senate Seat

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

Alaska Republican Ted Stevens says he is going to fight to keep his seat in the U.S. Senate, despite his conviction on federal corruption judges. Senator Stevens says he's the victim of prosecutorial misconduct, and he's planning an appeal. Before that, he faces an election, and Stevens' political fate is in the hands of his constituents.

Mr. CHARIYA CAVIGEE: I think he broke a lot of people's trust in him. There were a lot of people that were depending on him for a long time there. It's kind of sad the way it went. I don't think anybody would ever trust him again.

Ms. JESSICA WOLF: $250,000 over a lifetime is nothing. I figured there's still much more every day in Washington.

Ms. BARBARA LARMONT: If we reelect him, I just can't imagine what we will look like on the national scene.

SIEGEL: The voices of Chariya Cavigee (ph), Jessica Wolf (ph) and Barbara Larmont (ph) from our colleagues at the Alaska Public Radio Network.

SIEGEL: Now, to NPR's Martin Kaste on the question of what happens next for Senator Stevens. Hi there, Martin.

MARTIN KASTE: Hi, Robert.

SIEGEL: What do you think? Are Alaskans going to send Ted Stevens back to the Senate even after his conviction?

KASTE: Well, he's not going to get the 60 or 70 percent of the vote that he usually can count on. He's made a point of making his campaign this fall about this trial. He told me that he was going to have Alaskans watch how he fought these charges, which he called unfair, that they should look to the verdict, that that would be his campaign. But now that that verdict has come out guilty, we'll have to see whether asking for a speedy trial before an election was a gamble he shouldn't have taken.

SIEGEL: Well, Remind us what the rules are as far as a convicted felon serving in the U.S. Senate.

KASTE: Well, there's nothing stopping him from running again legally. The courts cannot kick you out of the Senate. They can't stop you from running for the Senate. Only the Senate can kick you out, and it takes two thirds of the senators voting to kick you out to do so. So, since the Senate is not in session right now, really, this is a question for the voters.

There's, of course, political pressure for Senator Stevens not to be in this thing. John McCain, of course, has come out calling for him to resign, and, you know, some other Republicans who are in tough reelection battles of their own, like Norm Coleman, the senator in Minnesota, have called on him to step down. So there's certainly that kind of pressure. But as to the legal situation, it's certainly possible for him to run, and he is running, and he's quite adamant about the fact that he's going to fight for his seat.

SIEGEL: Martin, has Stevens's challenger in the Senate race - the Democratic mayor of Anchorage, Mark Begich - has he called for Stevens to step down?

KASTE: Mark Begich is playing it very safe here. He released a sort of noncommittal statement yesterday that called on Alaska to move forward, that sort of thing, but not addressing the question of whether Stevens should still stay in office or should be running.

Mark Begich is, like most Alaskan politicians, very aware of Ted Stevens' stature as Uncle Ted, this man with - he's a legend in his own time in Alaska, and he also told me a few weeks ago that he was very consciously not going to campaign against Ted Stevens on the question of his legal troubles. And even now with the conviction, the mayor still is not going to bring that up, apparently, in the campaign. He doesn't want to antagonize, I guess, that deep feeling that many Alaskans still have for Senator Stevens.

SIEGEL: You mentioned what John McCain has said. He said Stevens should step down. What has Sarah Palin said?

KASTE: Well, right after the verdict was announced yesterday, Governor Palin put out a statement that was a bit vague. It called on Senator Stevens to do the right thing for the people of Alaska, but she didn't specify what the right thing would be. But today, apparently, she has told CNBC that Senator Stevens should step down. So she's joined her running mate, John McCain, in calling for the resignation of the man who's represented Alaska in the Senate now for 40 years.

SIEGEL: OK. Thank you, Martin.

KASTE: My pleasure.

SIEGEL: That's NPRs Martin Kaste speaking to us from Seattle. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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Martin Kaste is a correspondent on NPR's National Desk. He covers law enforcement and privacy. He has been focused on police and use of force since before the 2014 protests in Ferguson, and that coverage led to the creation of NPR's Criminal Justice Collaborative.
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