Stevens Proclaims Innocence in Home-State Rally

Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens (R) late Wednesday addressed a home-state crowd for the first time since his conviction Wednesday in Washington, assuring them of his innocence and asking for re-election next Tuesday.

Stevens, 84, told the crowd at an Anchorage airport that corrupt prosecutors were behind his indictment and conviction, and that his lawyers have launched an appeal. Meanwhile, he said he deserves the state's support instead of Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich. Stevens is the longest-serving Republican in the Senate.

"I ask you not because of what we have done in the past, but what we can do in the future," Stevens said. "I want your vote. I need your vote."

In a nod to the loss of his Senate committee positions, Stevens also told the crowd that he can represent Alaska's interests without any committee seniority and without Republicans in power. He reminded them of several pieces of legislation that he has passed in such situations in the past.

"All I needed was a chair in the Senate," said Stevens, whose rally was covered by C-SPAN.

Senate Republicans stripped Stevens of his leadership positions when he was indicted in July, since Senate GOP rules require any indicted senator to be removed from their positions. Any senator convicted must be removed from those appointments permanently. Stevens was ranking member on the Commerce Committee and Defense Subcommittee of the Appropriations Committee; Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) took Stevens's post on the Commerce Committee, and Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) took his position on the Defense Subcommittee.

Stevens's political fortunes have rapidly plunged since the conviction. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has publicly called on him to resign, and National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman John Ensign (R-Nev.) has said Stevens's career seems likely to end "in disgrace." A Rasmussen poll of 500 likely voters conducted on Tuesday also found him trailing Begich by 8 percent and that 52 percent of respondents believe he should resign. The poll had a 4.5 percent margin of error. A GOP poll has found the race tied at 42 percent, however.

Stevens was found guilty of seven felonies for making false statements on his annual Senate disclosure forms. His attorneys plan to file a motion for a retrial with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, which a federal judge will consider on Feb. 25. Sentencing is expected following that hearing. Each felony carries a sentence of up to five years in prison.

-J. Taylor Rushing