Brief of the Week November 10

WHAT TO DO ABOUT UNCLE TED? Convicted in a Washington, D.C., court on seven counts of failing to disclose gifts and his resignation demanded by his colleagues, Republican Sen. Ted Stevens nonetheless retained the loyalty of those who counted most — the Alaska constituents he has represented in the Senate for 40 years. In a stunning upset, the 84-year-old Stevens apparently won re-election by 48.1 percent to 46.5 percent a week after his conviction on felony charges. Although an estimated 40,000 absentee ballots and 9,000 early votes still have to be counted, those votes have historically gone heavily for Republicans in Alaska and Stevens’ 3,353-vote margin over Democrat Mark Begich seems likely to hold up. (Four other senators were convicted of felonies while in office, but Stevens will become the first to win re-election if he prevails.) With the senator known throughout Alaska as “Uncle Ted” appealing his conviction, National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Ensign (Nev.) called for his expulsion. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) said before the election that there was a “100%” chance of Stevens’ being expelled if his conviction was not overturned. However, given the likelihood of Stevens’ return to office, it seems less likely now that colleagues will try to expel him until the appeals process is exhausted. In the Powell v. McCormack case in 1968, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the House could not deny a seat to someone who had reached the constitutional age required to serve, was a resident of the state he represented, and had a certificate of election. Should Stevens resign or be forced out, a special election would be held in 90 days and probably won by a fellow
Republican — very possibly, Sarah Palin.