Ted Stevens Concedes.

19 11 2008

They say it ain’t over til it’s over.

It’s over.

Ted Stevens conceded the Senate race to Mark Begich today.

Given the number of ballots that remain to be counted, it is apparent the election has been decided and Mayor Begich has been elected.

My family and I wish to thank the thousands of Alaskans who stood by us and who supported my re-election. It was a tough fight that would not have been possible without the help of so many Alaskans – people who I am honored to call my friends. I will always remember their thoughts, prayers, and encouragement.

I am proud of the campaign we ran and regret that the outcome was not what we had hoped for. I am deeply grateful to Alaskans for allowing me to serve them for 40 years in the U.S. Senate. It has been the greatest honor of my life to work with Alaskans of all political persuasions to make this state that we all love a better place.

I wish Mayor Begich and his family well. My staff and I stand willing to help him prepare for his new position.





Alaska’s Senate Race – The Morning After

19 11 2008

Alaska has a Blue Senator. Mark Begich has won the election.

So where do we stand, and what does this mean?

Mark Begich – It means that Mayor Senator Begich gets to pack his bags and head to Washington DC, with his wife and son, to start giving progressive Alaskans and centrists, and people who don’t want a convicted felon representing them in our nation’s capitol, a voice. If he’s wise, and smart, he will take the Ted Stevens debacle as a cautionary tale. If he plays his cards right, he could be there for a long long time, but the Republican party will have him in their sights, and be watching for every little slip-up.

If the Democrats in the Senate are wise and smart, they’ll be really nice to Senator Begich and give him a couple nice feathers in his cap to wear home to Alaska. They know the kind of bombastic, blow hards Alaska is capable of sending to the capitol, and they probably don’t want it to happen again. And they sure don’t want Sarah Palin gunning for an open senate seat in 6 years. Mark Begich will be like salve on a wound for many who have had to endure Ted Stevens for decades.

Who will fill Mayor Begich’s seat after he leaves? Anchorage Assembly Chair Matt Claman. Matt just took over the chairmanship of the Assembly when a surprise progressive majority took over the paralyzingly conservative Anchorage Assembly that had previously been populated by junior versions of the aforementioned bombastic, blow hards. When the Assembly shifted to the left, Claman was chosen. I know Matt Claman and he’s a good guy. He lacks the extroversion and charisma of Begich, but his principles are sound, and he’s a concensus builder, and a rational thinker. He’ll probably do a pretty good job. He’ll be there until April, when the mayoral elections happen. He may decide to run for the position officially at that time. There are several others who have thrown their hat in the ring too. And this may cause some interesting wrangling, since one of those candidates is Assembly Vice Chair Sheila Selkregg. Today’s Anchorage Daily News has an interesting article on these behind the scenes goings on.

Sarah Palin – Well, God sent a message to Sarah. She said if God opened a door, even a crack, she’d “plow through it”. But tonight, when Begich won a clear victory, and the four decade era of Ted Stevens ended, the door firmly shut tight. She will undoubtedly be looking for another door. The three that may open up next are:

  • The Don Young Door – Congressman Don Young will be up for re-election in 2010, but may be out before then. He’s already spend a whopping 1.2 million dollars on legal fees in anticipation of his own coming indictment. Alaskans have been waiting for that shoe to drop for a while now….and it’s coming. It’s just a question of when. Look for headlines coming soon to a paper near you, now that Alaska politics has wormed its way into the national consciousness. But even if Young survives this, his 19th term in Congress, I don’t think Sarah Palin is gunning for his job. I just don’t think Congress is her style.
  • The Lisa Murkowski Door – Now we’re talking. Sarah unseated Lisa’s father Frank Murkowski when she became governor in 2006. This would be the second Murkowski trophy head on her wall. Murkowski hasn’t done a bad job in most Republican’s minds, but she hasn’t knocked their socks off either. It’s not a sure thing by any means that she’d be able to hold her seat against Palin. And the Senate, as we have just witnessed, can be an effective stepping stone to the Presidency, which is what Palin is gunning for in the long run. That’s the door she thinks God will open for her – the big fat door to the Oval Office. She’s “wired for the mission” and would be ready to run in 2012, or 2016.
  • The Direct Door to the Presidency – If Palin can hold on to office for another term, she may be banking on her national celebrity, and name recognition, and her Christian conservative buddies in high places to take her from the governorship to Pennsylvania Avenue…or so she hopes. She’s up for re-election in 2010. And who knows…she may feel fully qualified by that point to throw her hat in the ring anyway.

And what about Ted Stevens, and his suddenly awkward and very visible namesake – The Ted Stevens International Airport. Before we break out the chisels and hammers, the Anchorage Assembly and the Public Facilities Advisory Commission, and who knows who else, will have to do some political soul searching, and have lots of meetings.

Stevens’ legal appeal process moves forward, and he’ll fight tooth and nail, like he always does. And amazingly, he is still eligible, despite his seven felony convictions, for his senate pension of $122,000 a year, courtesy of taxpayers. Although there is a recently-passed federal law that prohibits felons from collecting on these pensions, Stevens’ particular felonies were not on the list, and they were committed before the law went into effect. Maybe next time.





My State is 1/3 Blue for the First Time in Three Decades!

18 11 2008

tedmark7 

Well, the final tally today had Mark Begich leading convicTed Stevens by 3724 votes.  It’s a happy happy day on the Mudflats!

Mark Begich has officially won the Senate seat.  Alaskans have done something right. 

That means that my red red state isn’t so red anymore.  We have just elected a Democrat to the U.S. Senate for the first time in 30 years! OK, I know….it took running against a seven time convicted felon to do it, and it was still really really close… but nobody better snow on my parade!

I’m having a small-scale flashback to election night, when I felt, for the first time in a long time that there was someone out there who was representing me who was actually representing me!  I feel suddenly relevant…light in my heart…with something that feels like a golf ball lodged in my throat.

I truly never thought I’d see this day.  When I first moved to Alaska, almost 2 decades ago, I was told by my future spouse that the only thing that would get Stevens and Young out of office was the grim reaper.  Who could have known about those undeclared home renovations?   

I pause for a moment to salute the very excellent House candidate, Ethan Berkowitz who was unable to unseat Don Young.  He came closer than anyone ever has, and deserves our gratitude.  Who knows…when Don Young gets convicted, maybe Ethan will give it another shot.

Begich issued a statement shortly before 5 p.m. claiming victory.

 

“I am humbled and honored to serve Alaska in the United States Senate,” Begich said. “It’s been an incredible journey getting to this point, and I appreciate the support and commitment of the thousands of Alaskans who have brought us to this day. I can’t wait to get to work fighting for Alaskan families.”

 

The Stevens campaign has made no comment.

 

Begich more than tripled his lead today after the state counted about 23,000 absentee and questioned ballots from Anchorage, Southeast Alaska, the Kenai Peninsula and Kodiak. The state finished counting from other parts of the Alaska last week.

I take this opportunity to congratulate Senator Mark Begich!  I am proud to have him representing me in the U.S. Senate.  And I offer these humble words of advice, Senator, now that you have done the impossible, slain the political lion, and defeated the Republican Goliath. 

Don’t.  Screw.  Up.

(Now, pass the cake!)

 

tedmark6

To celebrate this amazing event, I have turned all the commenters into joyous little critters!  Change is in the air!





Stevens and Begich – The Counting Continues.

14 11 2008

Another day of counting has begun. What started on election day as a 3200 vote lead for convicTed Stevens, swung to an 814 vote lead for Democratic challenger Mark Begich on Monday when a huge stack of absentee and early ballots were counted.

Today is round two. Here’s what will be counted today.

About 510 questioned ballots from Southeast, the Peninsula and Southwest Alaska

About 5,180 absentee and questioned ballots from Mat-Su

Questioned, absentee ballots from Richardson Highway and the Interior

About 3,600 absentee and questioned ballots from Western and Northwest Alaska, and North Slope

To Be Counted on Monday

Leftover absentee ballots from Richardson Highway and the Interior

To Be Counted on Tuesday

About 15,700 questioned and absentee ballots from Anchorage

About 8,300 absentee ballots from Southeast, Kenai Peninsula and Southwest Alaska

Begich made a big push for his supporters to vote early. Also, Republicans believe Stevens got a boost when he returned to Alaska from his trial less than a week before the election and began rallying supporters. People who voted earlier would not have been part of that lift.

Stevens’ supporters think he can come back as more absentee votes cast following his homecoming are counted. Still, the fact that the votes are coming from Begich majority districts leave the Democrats’ supporters quietly optimistic.

Yes, one can only imagine how many of those who were on the fence decided to align themselves with the convicted felon after his inspirational, and victorious homecoming from the trial.

An image from the inspirational Welcome Home Ted rally.

An image from the inspirational Welcome Home Ted rally.

On Monday, the Division of Elections released one batch of numbers during the day, and the final tally at about 8:30pm. It’s anyone’s guess how they’ll release the information today. Stay tuned.





Mark “Stomach of Iron” Begich Speaks.

13 11 2008

begich-kos

Mark Begich made a radio appearance on the Ed Schultz show today. He sounded pretty confident, but not cocky. He’s been through this before. When he was elected Mayor of Anchorage, he won by 18 votes. So his current lead of 814 seems like a landslide! His strong showing in districts with military bases, and out in rural Alaska speak volumes, coming from areas that have traditionally gone to Stevens.

He also discussed Sarah Palin’s potential plans for the future, including either throwing her hat in the ring if Stevens wins and is booted out by the Senate, running in 2010 for the Senate seat currently held by Lisa Murkowski, or running for President in 2012. He also used the word “debacle” when describing the McCain-Palin campaign, which made me smile.

Begich picked up on Palin’s recent quote, “I am not one to appoint myself or a member of my family to take the place of any [Senate] vacancy.” As you all know by now, she couldn’t do that anyway because it’s illegal…but it was a pretty obvious jab at Senator Lisa Murkowski, who was appointed to that position by her father Frank Murkowski when he left his Senate seat to become Governor of the state. He’s the one Palin trounced in the primary when she ran for the position. She may have Murkowski #2 in her cross hairs.

Begich also mentioned that his need to keep his operation going an extra week or two, means he is still welcome donations to the campaign. So, if you want to help him keep the staff he needs to make sure that this counting process goes smoothly, and keep everyone running full steam until the vote is finalized, you can throw him a little love at www.begich.com

Donations big or small would be most appreciated, I’m sure.





Latest Alaskan Numbers and Palin’s Potential Senate Run.

12 11 2008

So, IF Ted Stevens gets re-elected, and IF he gets expelled from the senate, we will have a special election to fill the seat.  Any takers?

In an interview today with Wolf Blitzer (I wonder if she had an urge to shoot him from a helicopter?) Sarah Palin said that she feels as though she has a “contract with Alaskans” to continue to serve as governor, but didn’t completely rule out a run for the U.S. Senate if there was an opportunity to do so.

Palin said, speaking of Alaska voters,  “if they call an audible on me, and if they say they want me in another position, I’m going to do it. … My life is in God’s hands. If he’s got doors open for me, that I believe are in our state’s best interest, the nation’s best interest, I’m going to go through those doors.”

She also said she would not appoint herself or a member of her family to the vacant senate seat….which is nice, because that would be illegal.  (bangs head on desk)

So obviously a lot hangs in the balance in this Senate race – not only another potential Democrat in the Senate, but whether Sarah Palin will gain a foothold in Washington.  The first batch of uncounted ballots will be finished tonight.  The official count from the Division of Elections has Democrat Mark Begich leading ConvicTed Stevens by THREE votes.  There are about 10,000 ballots scheduled to be counted today, and nobody is going home until it’s done.  There are about 35,000 more ballots to be counted in the next week. 

Ethan Berkowitz has made up a little ground on Republican incumbent Don Young but still trails by 15,710. 






Waiting for the Numbers in Alaska…

12 11 2008

There are 90,000+ ballots to be counted, and more coming in every day.

Absentee ballots: 60,950 (postmarked by midnight on 11/4)
Early voting ballots: 9,507
Question (provisional) ballots: 20,178 (voters who voted outside their proper district)

Grand Total: 90,635+  (with more arriving every day)

Today the state will count 42,991 of the absentee ballots and 9,333 of the early votes.  The rest will come later, hopefully by Friday.  But no promises.

The districts that will not be counted today seem to be favoring Begich.

District  Begich  Stevens   Margin
2
          54.2    40.9     +13.3
5          55.7    38.0     +17.7
6          47.8    46.3      +1.5
36         53.2    41.7     +11.5
37         50.0    45.9      +4.1
38         65.3    30.6     +34.7
39         58.3    38.1     +20.2
40         58.8    37.7     +21.1

So even if Begich does not overtake Stevens in the vote count today, those remaining districts still leave hope.  An automatic recount is only triggered if the votes are exactly the same.  However, candidates, or a group of 10 citizens can petition for a recount if the votes are within one half of one percentage point of each other.

And, of course, we’ll be looking to see if the House race, or local races take any significant changes.  Two wonderful local Democrats, Pete Petersen and Chris Tuck are both ahead but by a very slim margin.

It’s 2:00 in Alaska, and still no numbers coming in.  We weren’t sure if the numbers would come in one lump sum at the end of the day, or if they would release results throughout the day.  I’m guessing if we haven’t seen anything by now, we’ll get the final daily tally this evening.

(stares at clock)

(h/t to Daily Kos for the number crunching)

UPDATE:  Ted Stevens lead has now shrunk from 3300 to 971!  Tuck and Petersen are holding their own.  More to come.

UPDATE 2:  Begich is up by 3 votes!!!





Election Eve in Alaska. Again. Sort of.

11 11 2008

Alaska’s election is not over. There is no rest for the weary. The giant bottle of Tums still sits just to the right of my keyboard.

But, tomorrow, a chunk of the 91,000 outstanding ballots in Alaska will be counted.

For days, the count has been frozen. Sen. Ted Stevens leads Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich by about 3,000 votes with roughly 30 percent of the ballots remaining to be counted, including:

• 61,000 absentee votes.

• More than 20,000 questioned ballots.

• 9,500 early votes.

Of those, at least two-thirds of the absentee votes and nearly all the early votes are expected to be counted Wednesday, said Division Director Gail Fenumiai.

Election workers began poring over questioned ballots Monday in Anchorage, a process that will likely continue through the final count, which is expected Nov. 19.

Meantime, absentee votes are still arriving in the mail and precincts are sending in more questioned ballots.

Here are the squeakers:

With a little more than 90,000 ballots left to count:

U.S. SENATE: Sen. Ted Stevens (R) leads Mayor Mark Begich (D) by about 3,257 votes.

STATE HOUSE (District 19): Pete Petersen (D) leads Rep. Bob Roses (R) by 136 votes.

STATE HOUSE (district 27): Rep. Bob Buch (D) leads Bob Lewis (R) by 67 votes.

 

<!–[if !supportEmptyParas]–><!–[endif]–> Bev Harris, election guru from Black Box Voting was on KUDO today, urging Alaskans and all Americans not  to “get complacent.According to Harris, when numbers don’t’ add up, when books don’t reconcile, we need to act. She points out the dangerous mindset of only caring about election issues when it appears as though the outcome of the race will be affected.  Regardless of the closeness of the race, or whether our candidate is ahead, we need to challenge these anomalies on principle.  Every vote should count, and be counted properly regardless of the other votes surrounding it.   And just because the leadership changes, don’t assume the problems get fixed.

So, what about Alaska?  Harris was circumspect, but indicated that there were several red flags, and things which would need closer scrutiny….after the final numbers are in.  The thing that concerns her most of all is the fact that all Alaska votes are counted on a central tabulator in Anchorage.

This particular system, explains Harris, has “a number that you never see, an internal number that identifies which candidate is which.As absentee votes come in, and are counted, this number can be manually flipped back and forth by the individual operating the machine. Harris characterizes this type of system as “reeeally dangerous” because there are no checks & balances.

The fact that Bev Harris calls our system “really dangerous” is enough to make me think I may not sleep well tonight.

In addition, when an Anchorage voter votes in the polling place, there’s a tape at the end of the day that is associated with each particular voting machine.  With absentee voting there is no voting machine tape. Totals can literally be adjusted as they come in. A manual entry screen allows anyone with access to the machine to type over the old totals and make new ones. Scary, but true.

So, what do Alaskans need to do?  Harris has counseled an engaged group in Alaska to get audit logs, and copy information from the database as often as possible during the counting process.  Why?  Because it is our right to do so, and because we KNOW that they were tampered with in Alaska in 2004.  We just don’t know who did it.  There are eyeballs in the right places this year, but vigilance by all citizens is critical.

There is much we don’t know.  But we DO know that Bev Harris and Black Box Voting is paying close attention to our results.  And while she has said that  in Alaska “there are some very interesting issues to be looked at”, she’s playing her cards close to her chest until the numbers are all in.  More than half the uncounted ballots will be tallied tomorrow, and the final numbers are due in on November 19th, one week later.

We wait and watch.





Crunching the Numbers in Alaska.

6 11 2008

OK…

I’m not generally a conspiracy theorist. I say “generally”, because sometimes conspiracies happen. And sometimes it would be foolish to ignore them. The only thing worse than being labeled a conspiracy theorist, is being labeled a gullible idiot when it all comes to light. So I invite you to hop on board the Conspiracy Theory Express with me for a moment, because it’s pulling out of the station here in Alaska, ready to take you on a five minute tour.

As the final numbers roll in from state and national elections, I and others have noticed some results that are interesting at best, and highly suspect at worst. Either way, they deserve some scrutiny.

Let’s look at the national numbers first. Keep in mind that Alaska’s very own Governor, and the new GOP golden girl, Sarah Palin, was on the ticket. And Barack Obama has excited progressive Alaskans like no candidate before. He had five field offices, great ground organization, and inspired the biggest candidate rally in Alaska history. Voter turnout here was expected to be through the roof and breaking all records.

In 2004, 66% of registered voters turned out to vote in the presidential election between George Bush and John Kerry.

In 2008, including the votes still outstanding, only 54% of registered voters turned out.

And the strangest part of all? Voter turnout in the primaries, before Palin was even on the ticket, was up 12% from 2004. We also had more than 20,000 new registered voters.

Curious.

As these strange numbers rolled in at Election Central, I was there watching. Here’s how it fell out over time.

With 36% of the precincts reporting:
61.76% for McCain
35.64% for Obama

With 81.3% reporting
61.54% for McCain
35.69% for Obama

With 96.1% reporting
61.29% for McCain
35.96% for Obama

Alaska, like many states, has blue areas and red areas. The Mat-Su Valley, home of Sarah Palin is very very red. Anchorage? Blue. The Kenai Peninsula? Red. Juneau? Blue. You get the idea. When I, and my fellow progressive celebrants watched the first numbers come in, we thought, “That must be the Valley”, because the latest polls actually had the presidential race neck and neck with Obama only 2.7 points behind. We kept waiting for the progressive areas of the state to kick in, but they never did. No fluctuations one way or the other more than .3%. And George Bush won the 2004 election her by a margin of…..61-35.

Strange.

Then, we’ve got the two Congressional races.

Ted Stevens vs. Mark Begich. The convicted felon is currently ahead by about 3300 votes, with about 60,000 absentee and early votes left to count. It’s a squeaker, and Begich may pull this one off. By why is it a squeaker when the last poll had Begich 22 points ahead? He’d been running at a dead heat in the polling before Ted’s conviction, but after the seven felony convictions came in, Begich’s lead widened considerably. Pretty stunning turnaround for Stevens.

Remarkable.

How about Ethan Berkowitz vs. Don Young for the Congressional seat?

Berkowitz consistently led Young in every single poll since May by 5-14 points. Contrary to this comfortable and consistent lead, Don Young managed to pull off a stunning upset by trouncing Berkowitz by more than 7 points.

Amazing.

And since history is always our best teacher, let’s look back at the 2004 elections in Alaska. The majority of precincts had voter turnout of over 100%. In some cases, voter turnout was over 200%. Either Alaskans are enthusiastic about their vote to the point of breaking the law and voting twice, or there’s something very very wrong.

(From Shannyn Moore) There are 40 districts in Alaska. The Anchorage area districts run from District 17 to District 32. Scroll down to the bottom of the page and pick any district from 17-32. Pay particular attention to the 3rd column labeled % turnout. Hit the back arrow and select another district. There are more precincts with voter turnout over 100% than under 100%. In other words, many more people voted in Anchorage area precincts than there were registered voters. Clearly, this is not possible. In 2006, the Democrats filed a lawsuit against the Alaska Division of Elections to release public records needed to verify the 2004 election results. The Democrats ALSO sought to have the Alaska Division of Elections release the raw election data for the 2006 election.

It’s been more than 24 hours since the polls closed in Alaska, and the red flags are already waving.

OK, the Conspiracy Theory Express bus 5-minute tour is over, and you may now hop off. This was just a test drive. Keep your eyes on how the final numbers turn out. Democracy requires vigilance, and hopefully our state candidates will not be afraid to stand their ground. The Obama campaign had a team of lawyers at the ready in case election fraud was detected. It’s a wise precaution, and an obligation to the electorate whose fundamental rights hang in the balance. If I were Ethan Berkowitz or Mark Begich or Barack Obama, I’d make sure I took the process to the end, and took advantage of the media spotlight which still shines on our state, before it vanishes, and we are left to sort out our election questions in the dark. Sunshine is the best disinfectant.

UPDATE – Here’s some new coverage on this topic from The Washington Post and from 538.com.

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Alaska Senate and House Races Bring Surprises.

5 11 2008

It’s been an amazing day in American politics. President Elect Obama has heard the voice of America, and it is demanding change. The future seems full of promise and possibility for the first time in a long time.

But back on the Last Frontier, we know it just wouldn’t be Alaska if things went smoothly, or predictably. Any day now, I expect new Alaskan license plates to be released saying “Alaska” on the top, and “You Can’t Make This Stuff Up” across the bottom.

Despite polling numbers that indicated comfortable leads for Senate candidate Mark Begich, and House candidate Ethan Berkowitz, both races are too close to call until the final absentee and early votes are counted. Yes, it seems that we now have a “Stevens Effect”, people who say they wouldn’t vote for a convicted felon to pollsters, but when they get behind the curtain, they just can’t seem to resist the temptation.

Mark Begich (D) vs. Ted Stevens (R-I)

At last count with 99% of precincts reporting Begich trailed Stevens by only 4000 votes, 46.5% to 48%. But don’t write off Begich just yet. There are tens of thousands of votes yet to be counted – almost 50,000 in all. Absentee ballots have yet to be tallied, and more are arriving daily. In addition, any early votes that happened between last Thursday and Election Eve, are still to be counted. What does all this mean? We won’t know the outcome of this race for two weeks.

If Stevens is elected, he will face expulsion by the Senate, Alaskans will have the dubious honor of being the only state to ever elect a convicted felon, and Stevens will face expulsion. It will require a 2/3 vote to remove him. Sarah Palin, who asked Stevens to step down so Alaskans could have a “real” choice would NOT be able to appoint anyone to fill the seat. I heard pundits last night speculating that Palin would appoint herself to the seat. That will not happen. The Alaska Supreme Court has already decided this issue and removed the right of a governor to appoint anyone to a senate seat. Period. That said, there is nothing to prevent Palin from entering herself as a candidate in the special election to fill that seat.

So, what happened?

There are as many theories and opinions as people. Here are a few.

  • Stevens is more like family than a mere politician. If he says he’s innocent, then he’s innocent. He was railroaded. He continues to have the support of Alaska’s other Senator Lisa Murkowski, and Congressman Don Young. The feds were just out to get him.
  • Some Alaskans, despite being presented with the facts, will never ever vote Democratic. Ever.
  • Stevens gained votes from the inflated Republican turnout that came out to vote for Palin.
  • If Stevens gets in and gets expelled by the senate, there’s another opportunity to get a different Republican in that seat and not create a potential Democratic dynasty. This was openly promoted by right wing talk radio before the election.
  • Some Alaska voters have voted for Stevens every election of their lives. They’re happy with what he’s done, so why stop now?
  • Alaskans are terrified of giving up seniority in the Senate. We’re ignored a lot, and we worry that if Ted isn’t there with his experience, his connections, and his doggedness, we’ll be up a creek.
  • Nobody “outside” (aka the Federal Government, the FBI and the IRS) is going to tell me who to vote for. (sticking out chin, crossing arms and feeling like and Alaskan “maverick”)

Ethan Berkowitz (D) vs. Don Young (R-I)

This race is not as tight as the Senate race. In a stunning outcome that flies in the face of all recent polls, Don Young looks like he will pull it off. The bombastic, bloviating incumbent has a comfortable lead over the favored newcomer, and is up by more than 17,000 votes. The same 50,000 ballots have yet to be counted for these candidates, but that’s a pretty big margin to make up for Berkowitz. So, as excruciating as it is, and despite the fact that Berkowitz has not conceded, we may be sending Don Young back for his 19th term as Alaska’s one and only member of the House of Representatives. I would like to extend my humble apologies to the United States Congress. Forgive us, for we know not what we do.

So what happened?

Look back up at the “So what happened?” section above and insert the name Don Young, every time you see the name Ted Stevens, and add the following:

  • Just because he’s spent $1.2 million in legal fees, doesn’t mean he’s done anything wrong. He hasn’t even been indicted yet!

Asked if he was surprised at the way the numbers were running, Young said, “Not me. … The pollsters were wrong and they’ve always been wrong. … They don’t understand Alaska.”

The Anchorage Daily News has some good coverage of the Stevens-Begich race and the Young-Berkowitz race.

There are many chapters yet to be written.

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I Voted!

4 11 2008

vote11

I feel better.  I thought about voting early, but my usual polling place is generally pretty quiet, and I do love the festive feeling of voting on the day, so I waited.  Then I kept thinking….what if my name isn’t on the voter rolls?  I checked to make sure it was….but what if something happened AFTER I checked?  What if I get hit by a bus before election day?  What if my car runs into the ditch and I don’t make it in time?

So it was with great relief today that I walked into my polling place to finally vote.  I couldn’t stop smiling.  The poll worker who checked me in was a woman of color, and I had such a stupid smile on my face that I made her smile back in spite of herself.  There were 12 polling stations set up, and no line.  I dodged behind the curtain and just looked at the ballot for a minute.

I filled in Mark Begich, then Ethan Berkowitz, then my local race.  I saved Obama-Biden for last.  I took a deep breath and really thought about what it took to get to this day, not only all the incredible work that has gone into this particular election, but also to have a viable African-American candidate on the ballot as nominee for the President of the United States.

I hope to see a woman in that spot too, some day.  But I want to vote for a woman who has earned her place on the ticket through her own intelligence, principles, work ethic, determination and grit, not someone who got picked as a strategic calculation, and a poor one at that.  I looked at Palin’s name on the ballot.  After my deep breath, I filled in the Obama-Biden oval carefully…being sure not to leave one little white space.  Then I double checked to make sure I filled in the right oval, and didn’t make a horrible mistake because of my reverie.

Then off to the optical scan machine to watch my ballot get sucked into the little slot.  Number 555.  Pretty good turnout so far.  I’ll be back later to photograph the paper tapes they are required to post in the window.  In 2004, we had some precincts in Anchorage with a 220% voter turnout.  Not again.

We should be getting the first returns from the east coast within the hour!

vote2





Ted Stevens Update

2 11 2008

Our embattled Senior Senator Ted Stevens is facing the fallout of his seven felony convictions at every turn.  Here’s a semi-concise summary of where things stand.

Poll Numbers – The latest polls in Alaska, taken after the conviction, show Anchorage Mayor and Democratic challenger Mark Begich ahead with a commanding 22 point lead.    36% of Alaskans don’t mind voting for a convicted felon, but 58% do.  So that’s something.  The race was in a statistical tie just before the conviction, which makes you wonder why he pressed so hard for a speedy trial.  If he hadn’t requested it, he’d be in a lot better shape today.

Law License – Ted Stevens is an attorney, and last Thursday, the Alaska Bar Association sought to temporarily suspend his license to practice law.  Under the Bar Association rules, a conviction is considered to take effect as soon as the verdict is handed down by the jury. (Remember this for the next section).

Ability to Vote – The Division of Elections sought counsel from the Alaska Department of Law regarding whether Senator Stevens will, in fact, be prevented from voting on Tuesday.  Assistant Attorney General Michael Barnhill returned the opinion that Stevens may vote, and that the restriction of that privilege, due to felony conviction, comes at the moment of sentencing, and after the appeals process has run its course.  It’s interesting to note that the day this opinion was released by Barnhill, two callers in to progressive talk radio station KUDO in Anchorage, said that they were convicted felons and that they had lost their right to vote immediately upon the guilty verdict, despite the fact that they had appealed the case and were not yet sentenced. 

PFD Check – Because Stevens committed his seven felonies outside the state of Alaska, he will be allowed to continue to receive his Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend check.  Had the crimes been committed in the state of Alaska, he would have been ineligible to receive the annual check.  If Stevens’ appeal is tried in the state, and he loses, he would also lose his check.

Endorsements – Stevens still retains the support of Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski, Alaska Congressman Don Young, and his long-time close friend Democratic Senator Daniel Inouye of Hawaii.  Those on the other side who have rapidly distanced themselves from Stevens and have asked for him to step down are:  Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (KY), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D), Republican Presidential nominee John McCain, and VP nominee and Alaska Governor, Sarah Palin.

In a statement released by the Stevens campaign, [Senator] Inouye argues that his longtime friend will be seated as a Member of the Senate next year if re-elected and that he believes the felony convictions will be overturned.

“As the Senate has done in every other instance in its long 220-year history, I am absolutely confident that Ted Stevens will be sworn into the Senate while he appeals this unjust verdict, I am certain that this decision in Washington, D.C., will be overturned on appeal,” Inouye said.

But Reid rejected that reading of Senate history and chastised Stevens for using his friend in a political campaign.

“While I respect the opinion of Senator Daniel Inouye, the reality is that a convicted felon is not going to be able to serve in the United States Senate. And as precedent shows us, Senator Stevens will face an ethics committee investigation and expulsion, regardless of his appeals process,” Reid said.

Expulsion – Expulsion requires a 2/3 vote of the Senate, and is likely should Stevens be re-elected.  As much of a lion as Stevens has been, and although he has built solid relationships in the Senate, I don’t believe that more than a third of the Senate will fall on their swords to support him.  Voters don’t like politicians that like to pal around with convicted felons.

Appointment to vacant Senate seat –

If Stevens does get re-elected and then expelled, Alaska law states that there must be a special election held to fill the seat.  Sarah Palin, as Governor, cannot appoint herself to fill the seat.  She cannot appoint anyone to fill the seat, either permanently or temporarily.  There has been widespread misinformation on this point, including information coming from the head of the Division of Elections.  Yes, really…

The Alaska Replacement of U.S. Senators Act, also known as Alaska Ballot Measure 4 was on the November election ballot in Alaska.  It passed, with 55.6% of voters in favor.

The ballot initiative related to how the state fills its U.S. Senate vacancies, which became an issue in Alaska after Republican Frank Murkowski appointed his daughter Lisa Murkowski his Senate seat when he was elected governor in 2002.

Prior to the successful passage of the 2004 ballot measure, the governor could appoint a replacement to a vacant Senate seat. The initiative was primarily sponsored by Democratic legislators. It abolished the practice of appointments and required a special election in all cases except when the vacancy occurs within 60 days of a primary election.

Lt. Gov. Loren Leman, the Republican chief of the Division of Elections, twice removed the measure from the Nov. 2 ballot but was ordered by the Alaska Supreme Court to put it back on.

He wrote the initiative’s ballot summary, which said the proposition would leave Alaska without full representation in the Senate for three to five months.

The group that petitioned for the initiative, Trust the People, sued for an injunction once it discovered the language of the summary on Sept. 21.

The language that appeared on the ballot:

This measure would repeal state law that allows the Governor to appoint a person to temporarily fill a vacant seat in the United States Senate until an election can be held and certified. Under this measure a vacated seat would remain vacant for three to five months, leaving Alaska without full representation in the Senate. Other provisions are identical to existing law and those parts of the law remain unchanged. Current law requires that a senate vacancy be filled by special election, or regular election if the vacancy occurs less than 60 days before the primary election for that seat.

If Governor Palin attempted to put someone in that seat without a special election, there would be legal action filed within hours. Guaranteed.

However, that said, nothing would prevent Palin from running for that seat against whomever else the Republican party rules allowed to run.

At this point, down by 22 points, Stevens stands next to no chance of winning his re-election bid.  So, at the risk of jinxing it, I think this is a shoe-in for Begich.  BUT, Lisa Murkowski, the Senator mentioned above, is running for re-election in 2010.  I think it wouldn’t be unreasonable to assume that Palin has her eye on that seat.  She already took down one Murkowski in a Republican primary, so why not try for another?  She’s caught a bit of the flavor of being in the national spotlight, and she likes it.

I’ll quote my Grandmother, just because I like to do that.  She would have said, “How do you get Nellie back on the farm, once she’s seen Par-ee?”