Friday, September 12, 2008

Alaska Senate Election

Republican incumbent: Ted Stevens

Democratic candidate: Mark Begich

Stevens, 84, has been a senator since 1968. He formerly chaired the Committee on Appropriations. He was president pro tempore of the Senate from 2003 to 2007. He is fourth in seniority, and first among Republicans.

Begich, 46, has been mayor of Anchorage since 2003. His father, Nick Begich, was Alaska's congressman from 1971 until his death in 1972, in the same airplane disappearance that claimed the life of House Majority Leader Hale Boggs.

Polls cited by Real Clear Politics indicate a narrow lead for Begich.

So much attention on sparsely-populated Alaska this election year! Of course, its governor, Sarah Palin, has been nominated for vice president by the Republican Party. And Stevens is under indictment for improper financial disclosures to the Senate. His trial is currently scheduled to begin September 24.

Alaska originally elected two Democrats to the Senate, when it achieved statehood in 1959. Stevens was the first Republican to represent the state in that body. In recent decades, the Republican Party has dominated Alaska politics. The most recent Democratic senator was Mike Gravel, who left the Senate in 1981. No Democrat has held Alaska's only House seat since Nick Begich's death in 1972.

Stevens is not the only Alaska Republican implicated in a corruption scandal. This may be the year for the Democrats to get back into the Senate delegation. But much probably depends on the outcome of Stevens's trial, if it is completed on schedule, before the election.

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