Friday, 29 August 2008
Alaska has not been a state at risk of a turnover from the Republicans to the Democrats for a long time. It's Representative-at-large (the population is not large enough for more than the minimum one Representative) has served since 1973. Ted Stevens, the Senior Senator has served since December 1968 and he is the longest serving Republican in history (Although Strom Thurmond died a Republican, he was first elected as a Democrat). Yet this week The Cook Report reports the Senatorial race as "leaning Democratic".
Senator Stevens, whose seat is at risk, has been in trouble of late. He was indicted by a Grand Jury at the end of July and is due to go on trial in Washington DC on September 22nd. The charges relate to allegations that he failed to report gifts and favours received from the VECO Corporation and its Chief Executive, Bill Allen. Allen has already pleaded guilty to bribery, extortion and other charges.
The trial date will be difficult, just six weeks before the election. Washington has been shocked by a scandal which threatens the reputation of a Senator with a distinguished career. He has been President Pro Tempere of the Senate from 2003-7; Chairman of the Appropriations Committee 1997-2001, 2003-05; Chairman of the Commerce Committee 2005-07. He was a key player in Alaska gaining its statehood. During the Eisenhower Administration he worked at the Interior Department. "He did all the work on statehood," Roger Ernst, Assistant Secretary for public land management, later said of Stevens. "He wrote 90 percent of all the speeches. Statehood was his main project." A sign on Stevens' door proclaimed his office "Alaskan Headquarters" and Stevens became known at the Department of the Interior as "Mr. Alaska." Some have argued that in promoting statehood so aggressively Stevens overstepped the rules.
The Democratic contender who could benefit from the scandals which are dogging Alaskan Republicans (Representative Don Young is facing himself multiple investigations - further details of recent woes are described at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/amanda-coyne/another-alaska-republican_b_112005.html) ) is Mark Begich, Mayor of Anchorage. He is the son of Nick Begich, who was lost in the (presumed) aircrash in which Majority House Whip (who was campaigning for Begich) Lindy Boggs also died. As a result of the failure of the search to find the plane or its occupents, Congress passed a law requiring all US civil aircraft to have Emergency Locator Transmitters.
The websites of the two main candidates are -
The State has a population of 670,000 - and has seen tremendous growth in recent years. It 550,043 in 1990. That is still less than a quarter of a percent of the US population, for an area which is 16% of the USA's total. Oil and Gas; Defence and Government are the major industries.