Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin said her state’s newest senator, Democrat Mark Begich, should allow his seat to be decided in a new election now that charges against his predecessor Ted Stevens are being dropped.
“Alaskans deserve to have a fair election not tainted by some announcement that one of the candidates was convicted fairly of seven felonies, when in fact it wasn’t a fair conviction,” Palin said Thursday in an interview with the Anchorage Daily News.
Begich narrowly defeated Republican Stevens in last fall’s election, one week after a jury in Washington, D.C., convicted Stevens of seven counts of lying on financial disclosure forms to conceal hundreds of thousands of dollars in gifts and home renovations from a businessman.
But on Wednesday the Justice Department asked a judge to drop the charges against Stevens, saying prosecutors withheld evidence from his defense team that could have been used at his trial. Prosecutors said they will not seek a new trial.
The chairman of Alaska’s Republican Party, Randy Ruedrich, has also called on Begich to allow his seat to be decided in a special election, saying Begich defeated Stevens only because “a few thousand Alaskans thought that Senator Stevens was guilty of seven felonies.”
He told the Daily News that Begich should step aside “so Alaskans may have the chance to vote for a senator without the improper influence of the corrupt Department of Justice.”
Alaska Republican Rep. Don Young told Fox News that Stevens — who first entered the Senate in 1968 — “would have won hands-down” if the Justice Department probe had not played a part in the election.
But Begich on Thursday indicated he would not step aside, saying he entered the race “long before Senator Stevens’ legal troubles began, because Alaskans were looking for a change and a senator as independent as Alaska.”
And Patti Higgins, head of Alaska’s Democratic Party, said: “The fact that the Obama administration has decided not to pursue a case that the Bush administration lawyers handled in a faulty manner does not take away the fact that Ted Stevens broke laws.”
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