But it is an uphill battle, even with his outsize political clout and large following among Alaskans.
“What? He’s found guilty and there’s a sympathy thing?” says Anchorage pollster and political consultant Ivan Moore. After Stevens’s indictment in July, he fell 20 points behind his Democratic opponent in the polls. Then voters’ doubts about the validity of the federal charges against the senator, combined with a series of effective pro-Stevens campaign ads, turned the race back into a dead heat. In Moore’s last poll, Stevens was only one point behind.
With the jury’s verdict in, however, voters will follow their lead, Moore says.
Stevens’s opponent, Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich, has largely avoided mentioning Stevens’s legal woes. Instead, he portrays himself as part of a new generation of leaders ready to guide Alaska into the future, offering a new consensus-building approach that contrasts with Stevens’s legendary brawling style.
But minutes after Monday’s verdict, in closing remarks at the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce candidate forum, Mayor Begich weighed in. Although Stevens started his service in Washington with good intentions, he said, “I believe that over the last 40 years his judgment got a little cloudy.” Begich also told local reporters after the forum that the conviction was a sad turn for Alaska. “This has been a very difficult year for Alaska, and a long year,” he said, alluding to an ongoing corruption investigation that has already sent three former state legislators to prison and netted guilty pleas from several other formerly powerful figures.