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Postman on Politics

Chief political reporter David Postman explores state, regional and national politics.

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July 29, 2008 12:35 PM

What Stevens indictment means to his re-election

Posted by David Postman

U.S. Sen. Ted Sevens, R-Alaska, was indicted today on charges related to his failure to disclose financial gifts and favors from VECO that brought him a remodeled home along with a new car for his son.

In Alaska, I’m sure the talk has already turned to what this does to Stevens’ re-election bid. He faces primary challengers and, if he were to win the nomination, would face a well-known and well-financed Democrat in Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich.

But the candidate who is likely to get the most immediate attention is a newcomer to the state, Vic Vickers, one of the Republicans in the primary against Stevens. While other candidates avoid direct mention of allegations against Stevens, Vickers has been explicit.

Tomorrow he will look downright prescient. According to the Anchorage Daily News, that’s when Vickers scheduled the start of his TV ad campaign. And those ads focus (literally and figuratively) on the very home at the center of the Stevens indictment. Vickers' television ad shows him standing in front of Stevens' Girdwood home, which FBI and IRS agents searched in July of last year.

"I am Vic Vickers, and I'm running against Ted Stevens to stop corruption," Vickers says in the ad.

Vickers goes on to say in the TV ad that "I will not accept a single penny from any oil company or special interest.

Vickers told the ADN that he planned to spend $750,000 of his own money to win the race. He only moved to Alaska in January. On his Web site, Vickers tells the tale of his involvement with Alaska, from hitchhiking there as a teenager to his move to the state in January - a move seemingly aimed at taking out Stevens.

Take Back Alaska!

Vic knew that he had to confront Ted Stevens head on. Now Vic needs your help to rid Alaska of the corruption we all know exists. Ted Stevens became a millionaire while hoping you would be satisfied with bridges to nowhere and other smokescreens to distract you from his wrongdoing.

Stevens has raised a lot more money than any of his opponents. According to he has raised $4.1 million and already spent $3.1 million.

Vickers has raised $195,000 and spent $77,628.

Republican Dave Cuddy, has raised $129,000, but could be expected to spend some of his own money. In 1996, he largely self-financed a $1 million campaign against Stevens, but only got 27 percent of the vote, according to the ADN. Cuddy told the paper in December that Stevens’ problems wouldn’t be part of his campaign. And I don’t see any mention of the incumbent on his Web site.

Begich, the likely Democratic nominee, has raised $1.3 million and spent almost $500,000 of that. He, too, seems to be avoiding any direct attacks on Stevens - for decades the state’s most powerful politician.

Begich talks a lot about the need for more stringent ethics rules and has laid out his pledge to go beyond what the law now requires.

But that’s done without mentioning Stevens. Begich’s latest TV ad, about how he knows people wish they could hose down some of their politicians, avoids even a reference to Stevens.

With Stevens under indictment I wonder whether Cuddy and Begich will speak out more against the allegations that have plagued Stevens and opened the opportunity for the two men to make runs at the incumbent.

At the Washington Post, Chris Cillizza also looks at the electoral implications of today’s indictment.

An indictment hanging over his head could well change that calculus -- especially if the national party makes clear it would rather have someone other than Stevens on the ticket. While Stevens could still fight on, donations to his campaign could well dry up, making it tough for him to run the sort of campaign he must in order to beat Begich.

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