Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), the longest serving Republican senator, has been found guilty on seven felony accounts in regard to receiving up to $250,000 in home renovations and gifts from wealthy oil contractor and longtime friend, Bill Allen. If sentenced, Stevens could face up to 35 years in prison. Presidential hopeful Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz) and his running mate Gov. Sarah Palin (R-Alaska) have asked Stevens to step down and not seek reelection in light of his conviction, along with other prominent Republican figures. Stevens, embattled in a tight race against Democratic Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich, argues that he is innocent and refuses to resign. Despite his conviction, the editorial board of The Miami Student feels that it is politically advantageous for Stevens to continue his Senate race until his appeal is heard.
According to Senate rules. a victory for Stevens would mean that even if his appeal fails, he could retain his seat. The Senate could expel him, which would require a two-thirds vote of the chamber. Other less severe measures could include issuing a censure or fine, which would require a majority vote. Accordingly, until Stevens is sentenced, it is in his political best interest to continue to fight for his seat. If Stevens wins the election and his appeal is granted, he could still continue his political career.
The Alaskan GOP still stands behind Stevens and his decision to seek reelection despite Washington’s abandonment of the senator, and claims that Stevens has broken the public’s trust and must step down. Stevens has no intention of resigning now or in the future. If elected and then found guilty after his appeal, there will be a special election held in Alaska for his seat. Thus, Steven’s perseverance in keeping his seat red gives a greater likelihood of a Republican remaining in the Senate, as opposed to dropping out and letting Begich win an uncontested seat.
Although Stevens has been tried by a jury, he argues that his conviction stemmed from a flawed, biased jury in a liberal city. Until his hearing, scheduled in February, Stevens should continue his race. Stepping down now after proclaiming his innocence would imply defeat. Despite the cries from Capitol Hill, it is in the best interest for Republicans for Stevens to win the election and await the conclusions of his hearing. With a possibility of many Republican seats turning Democratic after Tuesday’s results, the GOP might want to reconsider their call for Stevens to resign.