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.





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!





Vote on Ousting Ted Stevens Delayed. Happy Birthday. UPDATED!

18 11 2008

Ted Stevens turns 85 today, and the GOP has voted to postpone a vote today that would boot Stevens from the GOP conference, until after the results of the Alaska Senate race are known. I guess that’s about as good a birthday present as the embattled Senator can expect this year.

As it stands, Democratic challenger Mark Begich leads Stevens by 1022 votes, a slim lead, but one prognosticators believe may be enough to hold through the last major round of vote counting today. 24,000 votes will be tallied by this evening, and the only ones remaining after that will be votes received from overseas, which will continue to be accepted until Wednesday. Ballots must be postmarked by midnight on November 4th, and are allowed two weeks to arrive in Alaska.

One of the questions on everyone’s mind is what happens when the current administration leaves office? The number of individuals on the list of last-minute pardons to come can only be imagined at this point. Will Stevens be one of those on that list? Not according to Stevens himself who was asked if he would seek a pardon.

Stevens simply said “No” when asked about a Bush pardon, and bristled when a reporter asked if he expected to be expelled as a political liability to Republicans battling an image of corruption.

“That’s just your words,” he said. “As a matter of fact, when the indictment was announced, they said it was not a corruption case, it was not a bribery case. It was a simple matter of failing to disclose. Maybe some of the verbiage that you are using is not proper.”

Senate Republicans are meeting to determine their leadership and a variety of motions. Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) had intended to offer a motion expelling Stevens from the conference, but postponed it until Thursday just minutes after Tuesday morning’s meeting began.

“I don’t like to use the word ‘pleased,’ but I’m happy with that,” Stevens said of the delay.

Stevens said his race in Alaska won’t be final until Nov. 25, and that he remains confident of victory. He is currently trailing Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich (D) by more than 1,000 votes.

“I still think I’m going to win,” he said.

Stevens said he expects the Republican Party will ask for a recount in the race, given the narrow margin.

So, that’s the word from Ted Stevens who is one tough nut, and cantankerous to the end. No asking for a pardon (at least not officially), and a probable recount. The bad news is that this election will seemingly never end. The good news is that a hand recount will potentially expose some election “abnormalities” that are a result of the unreliable and easily manipulated Diebold machines responsible for the vote tally that was tampered with in 2004, and that continue to be used to this day.

And the ride goes on.

UPDATE – First new results in!

Mark Begich – 146,286

Ted Stevens – 143,912

That gives Begich a comfortable lead of 2,374

*****************************************************

UPDATE #2:  Finall tally for the day has Mark Begich up by 3724!  Will Stevens concede?  Will Begich declare victory?  Will we have a recount?  Stay tuned!

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Another Election Eve in Alaska. Recount Possibility?

17 11 2008

1600. That’s the magic number. If Mark Begich can increase his lead from 1022 to 1600, it will put him over the recount threshold. If the margin of victory is under .5%, the state will pay for a recount if requested by either candidate, or a group of 10 citizens. If the margin is over .5%, then the candidate would have to pay for a recount himself. An automatic recount is generated only in the unlikely (but nothing would surprise me at this point) event of a tie.

Will Stevens ask for a recount if he comes up short?  It’s anyone’s guess.  If anyone would do it, it’s Ted.  But he may decide to leave well enough alone, and spare himself from his almost certain expulsion from the US Senate.  But Stevens is not one to back down.  Ever.

Let me be the first to say that Alaskans are eagerly looking forward to this election being over.  We were all prepared to wrap it up on November 4th, and are now faced with the election that wouldn’t die.  But, there is a bright side to a potential recount.  Recounts are done by hand count.  It would be interesting to see how a good old-fashioned hand count fared in comparison to the suspect results that come from our particular brand of nefarious vote counting software.  It might be the only vote of integrity Alaskans will have seen for several cycles.

And, if it flips the other way and Stevens regains his advantage, maybe Mark Begich will demand a recount.

The counting finishes tomorrow with approximately 24,000 ballots coming from Anchorage, Southeast Alaska, and the Kenai Penninsula remaining.  When all is said and done it looks like Alaska’s percentage of voter turnout will be about 65%, which is less than the 66% voter turnout just four years ago, despite Palin and Obama on the ticket, and despite the addition of more than 20,000 new registered voters this year.  There are many loose ends to be tied up before this is all over, and once the votes are counted.

And just in time for a little comic relief from the Stevens-Begich duel to the death, check out Juror #11’s Blog! That’s right.  Blogging jurors.  This is a hilarious recounting of the Ted Stevens trial from the perspective of Juror #11.  Too bad she wasn’t allowed to blog during the trial! This is the juror who, although initially pegged as an alternate, got to step in when the infamous Juror #4 fled the scene after making up the story about her father dying, so she could go attend a horse race.

Here’s Juror #11’s summary of the trial’s opening statements: (‘Salmmy’ is Ted Stevens….we don’t know why yet, but have been promised an explanation in the future)

The prosectution: I am Rosie, and Salmmy is guilty of fraud! False Statements! Lying! Receiving Gifts! Furniture! Generator! Free Work done on his house! Statue! Puppy! Stained Glass Window! Mustang! – Wait?! Did she just say Mustang? What was that about a Mustang? Whose Mustang? Are you giving out Free Mustangs? Damn, now I really have to listen to find out more about that mustang! (yes, I love mustangs and am sure at one point I doodled ‘Mustang of love’ a dozen times in my notebook like a love sick teenager. I really hope they shredded those notebooks). Sadly, after the mustang bit my head was a little cloudy, but I think she said that they would prove their evidence in the next couple of weeks.

The defense: I am a whimisical old man! I don’t like microphones or standing in one spot! (I swear his nickname was going to be Orville Redenbocker if he had continued in this vein. I wanted to give him a straw hat, bow tie and a red stripped vest). Luckily he got to the point: Salmmy is innocent! He is old and confused! He hardley even goes to Alaska! His wife handled all the bills! His bestest friend didn’t tell him what was happening! Seriously? Oh, and Bill Allen is the Evil. He tricked Salmmy!

There are also before and after pictures of Ted’s chalet, and other amusing tidbits about the Alaskan trial of the century.  I’ll be putting a link in the sidebar for this one.

And then tomorrow, back to the serious stuff.





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.





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?”





Stevens and Begich on Palin. Two Bad Answers. One Hot Shower.

31 10 2008

I listened to the Senatorial debate last night, and expected that most of the questions and answers I’d heard before.  But Stevens’ recent conviction, I thought, might engender some interesting conversation.  The thing I didn’t expect was the two candidates’ take on Sarah Palin.

Remember, Sarah Palin, who launched her political career at the feet of Ted Stevens, and served as the Director of his 527 group “Excellence in Public Service, Inc” which could raise unlimited funds from corporate donors, has recently turned on her former mentor.  At first she was lukewarm in her condemnation suggesting that he “do the right thing.”  But 24 hours later, after her running-mate asked him to step down, Palin fell in line.  Lisa Murkowski, Alaska’s other Type-A red-suited political woman of power, and Junior Senator for the state, is standing by her man.  She was even one of the speakers at Ted’s recent Welcome Home rally, urging Alaskans to vote for Stevens and give him a “hero’s welcome.”  And our other congressional delegate, Representative Don Young is saying that Ted didn’t get a fair trial.  So, although Palin fell in line with national Republicans, she went out on a Republican limb in the state of Alaska when she threw Stevens under the bus.

Apparently Stevens didn’t get the memo.  After endorsing her candidacy, and waiting unsuccessfully for Palin’s endorsement of his senate campaign, he had this to say about whether he thought she was qualified to be Vice President:

Tracy (moderator): Is Gov. Palin qualified, sir, as president?

Stevens: Yes she is. Yes she is. I think she is. She’s had experience as a mayor. She’s had experience, really, as a governor. And she is what I think the American women have sought for a long time, she’s another candidate for a presence of a woman in our national leadership. So I think she’s qualified and I think our people would like to see her become president… vice president.

I’d like to see her become president, as a matter of fact.

So, she’s qualified to be President of the United States because she’s had “experience as a mayor”, “experience, really, as a governor” and she is a “candidate for a presence of a woman in our national leadership.”  After a few moments of stunned silence, I started thinking about why Stevens said that.  To quote Dr. Seuss, “And I puzzled and puzzled, til my puzzler was sore.”

The only answer is that Stevens isn’t taking it personally.  He knows that Palin had no option with the national Republicans, and he’s willing to take one on the chin and still support his party.  He’s been around the block enough times in 40 years to know she’s not even close to being qualified.  But what’s the alternative – say she’s not qualified and risk his endorsement being the thing that makes Alaska go blue in the Presidential race?  He’d never live it down.  He’s a Republican through and through, even from the pavement under the bus, and even if it means Palin being President of the United States. 

Mark Begich had the opportunity to answer the same question.  Actually he had an opportunity before Stevens did.  Here’s how it went.

Moderator John Tracy: If elected, and if it becomes necessary, is Gov. Sarah Palin qualified to serve as president of the United States?

Begich: I’ve answered this question a lot of times. And my view is, the voters are going to make that decision. If she wins her election as the vice presidential nominee, as she is now, wins as vice president, come Nov. 4, that tells us she’s qualified.

Tracy: I’m going to come back. Sen. Stevens?

Stevens: Well I don’t understand your question in relation to his answer.

Tracy: Yeah, well I said I’m going to come back. But I’m going to give you a chance first.

You saw Stevens’ response above.  After he had his say (and left me slackjawed for a minute), Tracy came back to Begich.

Tracy: Mr. Mayor, I’m going to insist on a yes or no answer.

Begich: Well John, on this one I think, again, the voters are going to make this decision. I think she has proven that she has some strong mettle out there. She’s been out there on the campaign trail. I think that the issue that I have not heard a lot about is where she stands on a lot of foreign policy issues, domestic policy.

I’ve heard her repeat more of the McCain line, but I’m interested in what she’s about. I’ve seen some interviews with her, but they’re not in depth and so I can’t judge that at this point. What I can tell you is, she has made the nomination. She will be there on the ticket on Nov. 4. If she wins, I guarantee you that she’s going to have to be ready.
… Your theory there is something’s going to happen to Sen. John McCain if he’s president.

Carey: It’s not my theory. I simply asked you if you thought she was qualified to be president.

Begich: The President. Well, she’s running for vice president, and she’s on the ticket.

That was Mark Begich’s 162 word response to a yes or no question.  Now, I like Mark Begich, and I’m going to vote for him.  But, he’s not doing himself any favors with answers like this.  Mark Begich can’t really come out and say Palin is an incompetent and unqualified candidate in a state where 62% of the population still thinks she’s doing a good job.  And he can’t do what Stevens did and say she’s the greatest thing since sliced bread because everyone who works for him, campaigns for him, or is related to him would never speak to him again.   I get it.

But there were two appropriate answers to the question that would have done the job, and kept him from looking like a Class A weasel.

Answer #1:  You know John, I have to admit that I have some concerns, and I’m not the only one.  Many prominent national leaders from both sides of the aisle have concerns.  It shows we’re thinking, and it shows we care.  However, anyone who lives in Alaska knows that Sarah Palin is a determined, confident and talented person who has risen to challenges before.  CAN she do it?  I don’t have a crystal ball, but I remain hopeful that this would be a challenge she would navigate successfully if she were put in that position.

Answer #2:  (Holds up hand, palm out, laughing)  John, I’m not touching this one with a 10-foot pole! 

Either one of those approaches would have been better, in my humble opinion.  But Alaskans are tired of lying and partisanship (Stevens), and they’re also tired of tap dancing and non-answers (Begich).

There are no easy answers in Alaska politics, and sometimes the muck gets deep fast, both for those running for office, and for the rest of us trying to figure those people out.  So I’m going to take off these muddy boots, and get out of these wet things, and go take a nice hot shower.

 

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Ted Stevens Numbers Slide After Conviction

30 10 2008

The Ted Stevens/Mark Begich Senate race in Alaska was a toss-up before the jury came back with the verdict of guilty on all seven felony counts for failure to disclose gifts and services totaling more than $250,000.

And, despite the amped up, frenzied Stevens supporters who crowded into an airplane hangar for Stevens’ Welcome Home rally last night, the scale has started to tip decidedly for Democratic challenger Mark Begich.  It’s a toss-up no more.  It isn’t over yet, but Uncle Ted’s chances are looking pretty slim.

Rasmussen released the following numbers, taken the day after Stevens’ conviction.
Begich (D) – 52%
Stevens (R) – 44%
Bird (AIP) – 3%
Undecided – 2%

Only 74% of Republicans say they will vote for the nominee of their party while 21% of GOP voters will cast their ballot for Begich, the mayor of Anchorage.

Fifty-two percent (52%) of Alaska voters say Stevens should resign while 39% disagree. Republican leaders including John McCain, his running mate Sarah Palin, the current governor of Alaska, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell have all called upon Stevens to step down.

Stevens is now viewed favorably by 43% of Alaska voters, down from 54% before the trial began. Still, even after the guilty verdict, 52% of voters say Stevens is about as ethical as most politicians. Fifteen percent (15%) say Stevens is more ethical than most of his peers while 31% say he is less ethical. These reactions say as much about perceptions of politicians as they do about Stevens.

This must explain why 51% of Alaska voters say that Sarah Palin is more ethical than most politicians.

Palin earns good or excellent reviews as governor from 61% of voters in her home state, virtually unchanged from polling last month. Eighty-five percent (85%) of Republicans and 59% of unaffiliated voters give Palin positive marks.

Overall, just 22% rate her job performance as poor, a figure that includes 44% of Democrats.

If this makes you want to bang your head on the desk….stop. Remember that Sarah Palin’s approval rating was hovering around 90% at one point. So, step back, and think of how it would look on a graph. Time on the X-axis, and favorability ratings on the Y-axis. After the third time I banged my head on the desk, a vision of this graph popped in to my mind, and I stopped. Once the fun of having a local politician on the national stage is over, and she gets back home, the numbers will continue to slide. Stay tuned.

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He’s Baa-aack! Infiltrating the Welcome Home Ted Stevens Party.

29 10 2008

Ted Stevens is back in Alaska. I decided to crash his welcome home party at the Pen-Air hangar out by the airport.  I had no idea what to expect with this one, but I just had to do it.  I’ve never been to a welcome home party for a convicted felon returning home to run a Senate campaign.  And I probably won’t get the chance again. 

Driving out to the airport, it became increasingly obvious that more and more cars on the road were sporting Ted Stevens bumper stickers, and heading in the same direction.  As I got closer to the hangar, I noticed immediately cars parked everywhere.  Could this really be for Stevens?  People were walking toward the hangar, so it must be.  I had to park some distance away and by the time I got in the hangar, I was freezing.  The place was packed, and brightly lit.  Boxes of Ted Stevens buttons and stacks of bumper stickers greeted us at the door as smiling people welcomed us.  The sound system was blaring Journey, and that made me think of the long strange journey Uncle Ted has been on for the last two years.

I noticed Assemblyman Chris Birch from South Anchorage milling around, and there was former Assemblyman and Anchorage Mayor wannabe Dan Sullivan.  And over there, Senator Lisa Murkowski in the obligatory red suit, smiling and shaking hands.  I estimated the crowd at about 600.  Bigger than I thought it would be.  But I didn’t see Republican Party Chair Randy Reudrich.  Or State Senate President Lyda Green.  Just one assemblyman, one former assemblyman, and our Junior Senator.  The missing persons were obvious, and it demonstrates the interesting fractures developing in the state’s Republican party.

I snapped a picture of the crowd, and a lady grabbed my arm. “You should take a picture of those t-shirts!” she beamed.  “Did you see them??  They’re great!  They say ‘Fuck the Feds! Vote for Ted!'”  This took me by surprise, and I sort of did a choke/gasp combo, and she reassured me, “Oh, they made those marks instead of some of the letters…but you can tell that’s what it means.  Look!  There’s one!”  She pointed.  I snapped. And thus the Republican Party in the State of Alaska has officially hit bedrock.

Our emcee was Rick Rydell, a long-time conservative radio talk show icon.  “I don’t know about you, but I don’t like outsiders telling me what to think!”  Wild cheering with a peppering of testosterone drenched “YEAHH!”.  And if any of ’em tries it, says Rydell, they can “kiss my moose-hunting behind.” I almost didn’t tell you that part, because it’s people like that that make me cringe as an Alaskan.  Then he went on to say that there were people that call his radio show all the time and say, “How can you not think Ted is guilty?” and then he says, “Why do you think he IS guilty?  And then they tell him, ‘I read it on the internet and the Anchorage Daily News.”  Laughter and scorn from the audience.  And finally he reminded the crowd that “the prosecutors don’t know Ted….I know Ted, and I choose to believe him.”  

Yes, apparently to Anchorage’s conservative radio audience, not only the Anchorage Daily News (Alaska’s only large newspaper), but the entire internet is a bogus source of information.  What the talk show guy “chooses to believe” is infinitely more reliable.

Next up,  Lisa Murkowski.  Here was one angry lady.  After being introduced by Rydell as the “other Senator”, she was met with lots of cheering and chants of LEE-SA! LEE-SA!  She flashed the crowd what I can only describe as a you’re-in-deep-trouble “Mom face” and said “NO.  NO.  This is not about me. THIS IS ABOUT ALASKA!”  Then, she went on and on about how Ted has “more to give”, and he had faith in us, and we need to have faith in him, and that it was “not a good day for the country when justice is not duly served.”  Then she proceeded to slam everyone she could think of for turning on Ted, including the Democratic National Committee (boos from the crowd).  She, of course failed to mention that the Republican National Committee, The Republican Senate Minority Leader, The Republican Presidential Candidate, and our own Republican Governor VP Candidate Sarah Palin ALSO asked Ted to step down.  Details, details.  Much more fun to Boo the DNC.  And then the grand finale…we were told to “feel the love in the room” and “wrap our arms around Ted” and give him a “hero’s welcome.” 

Senator Lisa Murkowski

Senator Lisa Murkowski

And then, Lily Stevens, Ted’s daughter spoke.  “We need to send a strong message to my Dad. We need him!”  Chants of WE NEED TED! WE NEED TED! WE NEED TED!   And then, the man of the hour arrived, with his wife Catherine on his arm.

He looked a little tired, but was definitely as cantankerous as ever.  “I am innocent of the charges against me!”  “I will be vindicated!”  “I will NEVER stop fighting for the people of Alaska!”  “My future is in God’s hands.  Alaska’s future is in your hands!”  “I have helped every Alaskan that has ever come to me for help!” Lots of cheers.  “I naively trusted someone I thought was a friend.”  This reference of course was to former Veco CEO Bill Allen who turned on his buddy and served as the prosecution’s star witness.

It was a short gathering.  Only about 1/2 hour.  Well attended by a devoted cadre, who can only be described as being “filled with righteous anger”.  And we learned that there is no way he’s stepping down.  There was absolutely no mention made of Mark Begich, Stevens’ Democratic opponent.  “The feds” are the clear enemy here.  And we know how we feel about THEM.  Just read the t-shirts.

I skated out quickly, and zoomed across town to the open house for Mark Begich.  I’m always glad these things happen at the same time, so I can end my journey in a comfortable venue.  He made a great speech – short but positive, and hopeful.  Young people were everywhere, a great swing band played, there was popcorn.  The room was packed. There was a happy flag cake.  There were no expletives.  Nobody was angry.  It was nice.

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Ted Stevens Juror Has “Violent Outbursts!”

23 10 2008

Well, this is strange… I wondered why the jury in the Ted Stevens trial asked to be dismissed 15 minutes early because they were too stressed out. What could be so stressful that you couldn’t stick it out for the final 15 minutes of the day?? The answer – Juror #9. Apparently Jurors 1-8, and Jurors 10-12, all want her gone.

Today, they passed U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan three notes, including one about the combative juror in question. The juror, No. 9, works for the National Guard as a bookkeeper.

Out of their presence, Sullivan read from the note the jury foreman sent him, which began, “We the jury request that juror No. 9 be removed from the jury.”

“She is being rude, disrespectful and unreasonable,” the foreman wrote. “She has had violent outbursts with other jurors and that’s not helping anyone. The jurors are getting off-course. She’s not following the laws and rules that are being stipulated to in the main instructions.”

Sullivan said out of the jury’s presence that he did consider asking the foreman to explain to the court what he meant by “violent,” because he had safety concerns.

Instead, the judge called the whole jury to the courtroom so he could remind them of their obligation to be civil to one another and foster an atmosphere of “mutual respect.

Judge Sullivan talked to the jury, and sent them back. So there they are, ready now to wrap up the second day of deliberations.

I’m guessing this isn’t stellar news for the prosecution, because obviously they’re not all in happy agreement about everything. But if it’s 11-1, that’s interesting too. Speculation is dangerous.

I actually saw Mark Begich today, and how the man is not on an intravenous Pepto Bismol drip is beyond me. Day three tomorrow…





Jury Dismissed for the Day at Stevens Trial.

22 10 2008

The jury in the Senator Ted Stevens corruption trial has left for the day. (door closing noise)

They were supposed to leave at 4:45pm, but asked permission to leave early.

The jury returned to Sullivan’s court at 4:25 p.m. Sullivan said they had sent a note.

Paraphrasing, he said jurors wanted to leave early. “Kind of stressful right now – we need a minute of clarity right now.”

No problem, Sullivan said. “Of course I will let you go.”

What does this mean? I was expecting a request for more dry erase markers, or a question about an electrical invoice, or something else. But “Can we go early because we’re stressed out?” I didn’t see that one.

So, what do you think?





Stevens Trial – Bill & Ted’s Desert Adventures

1 10 2008

So, if I told you that an 84-year old Senator was on trial for seven felony counts of failure to disclose gifts and home renovations on his Senate financial disclosure forms, and then I told you that he wore a panda tie to the trial, and then I told you that his estranged best friend, now turned key witness for the prosecution, told a wistful story about how the two of them used to go to “boot camp” together in the desert southwest, and walk around eating hardly anything but drinking wine as a weight loss strategy…. you’d probably have to do a mental rewind. You’d ask me to repeat myself, and you’d listen again and then start to think I’d been hitting the wine myself, or at the very least was relating a weird dream in that way you do when you first wake up.

But, you’d be wrong on both counts. This is all very, strangely true. The witness in question is none other than former oil services company Veco’s former CEO, Bill Allen. And Bill and Ted’s excellent adventure really did happen.

“Allen described meeting Stevens for the first time in the early 1980s at fundraisers and events for Republican Frank Murkowski, who was running for the U.S. Senate and went on to a term as Alaska governor. Allen spoke wistfully of their former “close, personal friendship” and how they used to go to “boot camp” in the desert Southwest – where they would walk around, eating little and drinking only wine, “trying to get some pounds off.”

While Allen testified, Stevens looked down at the table, writing. It didn’t appear the two former friends ever made eye contact.”

I don’t know that wandering in the desert drinking wine is the most effective weight loss strategy, but it does get points for creativity….unless the dehydrated alcoholic heat stroke gets you. Ah, the hazards of “boot camp.”

And the panda tie? I can’t explain it. Stevens has been infamous in the past for wearing another tie, featuring the Incredible Hulk (no I’m not kidding), on the Senate floor. That’s when many Alaskans collectively sink down in their chairs with a hand over their faces trying to act like he’s not our Senator. Stevens even has a collection of Incredible Hulk memorabilia in his Senate office. The Hulk is his totem animal. Maybe the panda was meant to metaphorically show the court that deep down he’s just a big ol’ teddy bear? The Hulk can be a bit intimidating, and you could imagine him being in shackles… but a panda? No jury could be that cruel.

Most of the rest of the Stevens trial has been all about…home renovations. Electricians, photos of plugs, blueprints, telephone lines, contractors….kind of a snooze. But Bill Allen definitely spiced things up a bit.

The conversation also turned to some of the unreported gifts that Stevens has received from Allen and Veco: gift baskets, a $30,000 fish sculpture, engraved guns, a sled dog puppy, a generator to save the Stevens’ chalet from potential Y2K issues, and a foot-sewn doll. If you are more convinced than ever that I’m making this up, feel free to check HERE, where they are live blogging the Stevens trial.