Can Ted Stevens thrust Palin back into the national spotlight?

November 7, 2008

ANCHORAGE – Gov. Sarah Palin has gone home to Alaska, but her return to the national political stage may come sooner than the 2012 U.S. presidential campaign.

If Republican Sen. Ted Stevens maintains his slim lead over Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich, it could once again thrust Palin into the spotlight. The 84-year-old Stevens could be re-elected for an eighth term despite being convicted of corruption last month. His conviction prompted calls for his resignation from Republican presidential candidate John McCain and Palin, his running mate. Stevens has vowed to fight on even though a convicted felon has never served in the U.S. Senate.

The conviction came a week before election day — too late to replace the longest-serving Republican on ballots in Alaska. If Stevens wins the election and then relinquishes his seat, that’s when things could get interesting.

It would force a special election 60 to 90 days from the time the vacancy occurs. Alaska’s Division of Elections said Palin would make a temporary appointment to hold the seat until a new senator is chosen by special election. One candidate being discussed in Alaska’s Republican circles? Yes, the governor herself.  If Palin doesn’t take that step, she could also play the role of kingmaker and hand a political ally the tag of incumbent heading into the special election.

There is some debate over whether Palin has the right to temporarily appoint a person to the Senate. Proponents of a citizen initiative passed in 2004 said that measure stripped the governor of the right to make Senate appointments — even temporary ones. The initiative was passed after then-Gov. Frank Murkowski appointed his daughter Lisa to the Senate seat he vacated to become Alaska governor.

Palin, who returned to Alaska Wednesday night, seems to have retracted her earlier call for Stevens to resign. Speaking to reporters at the Anchorage international airport, Palin said: “The people of Alaska just spoke. They said that they want him as their senator.”

Well, not every Alaskan has spoken yet. At last count, there are still at least 70,000 ballots to be counted and Begich is trailing by about 3,000 votes. If “Uncle Ted” can pull this out, we might hear from “Sarah Barracuda” sooner than we thought.

Click here for more Reuters 2008 campaign coverage.

Photo credit: Reuters/Mike Blake (Palin waves to crowd after McCain delivered his concession speech in Phoenix on Nov. 4)


We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see

I believe that Palin will run for Stephens’ seat and that she will win.

Posted by Stephen Gianelli | Report as abusive

I hope she does contend for the seat I would like to see her abilities tested within the senate. she was considered good enough to be VO nod. I think she may do well in the senate.

Posted by nina simone | Report as abusive

Your article suggests there is some debate whether “the governor of the right to make Senate appointments — even temporary ones. ” From reading the 2004 law it clearly states the Governors ability to make an interim appointment is stricken from the previous law, which my understanding is that means she cannot make any interim appointments. The law of 2004 supercedes previous law on this matter. I suggest any attorney could try to make the argument but from reading the law they are going to fail to persuade a court that Palin still has those powers. If she wants Stevens seat when vacated, she will have to run for that seat in the Special Election.

Posted by Monty Kelley | Report as abusive

if she does, it’s going to be another name calling, back stabbing, right wing bible thumper. when is this country going to realise that it was created with “separation of church and state”….this may be a “christian” country – but it also holds many different beliefs….all of them can’t be right, so the founders of this country had it right…do not put religion in the same seat has the person that governs. this is why bush and company have screwed up things so bad, their belief that “god” is on their side and whatever they do is right.

Posted by john | Report as abusive

Well, current Alaska (Sec. 15.40.145.) law (as passed by the legislature) explicitly gives the Governor the power to appoint a temporary Senator (apparently even herself). Since the 17th Amendment specifically gives ‘the legislature’ of a state the power to set the procedure for seating a Senator after a vacancy occurs, I fail to see how the referendum could be valid. The Constitution gives the power to the legislature, who in turn gave the power to the Governor. The 2004 ballot measure cannot override the US Constitution, and more than a local referendum could. So it DOES appear Palin has the authority to appoint a temporary Senator, while setting the timetable for a special election as well.

Posted by Tony Keller | Report as abusive

John the one thing that people get mixed up is the Seperation of church and State. This is a statement that was written by Thomas Jefferson to indicate that our government not form one set religion (i.e. Judiasm, Christianity, etc…). Not that our leaders cannot be religious, as long as they don’t force the people of the nation to believe their point of view. If you look in Wikipedia it will give you the definition. This term is too often used loosely for liberal political agenda’s. Thank you for your comment. God Bless!

Posted by Nathan | Report as abusive

How many ballots are still uncounted?

Is there much of a chance that a recount would put
Stevens behind?

Posted by Rich Rooney | Report as abusive

Here is one from a red state who is a strong supporter of Palin. Hope she gets the Senate nod to position her for the 2012 election

Posted by harold ingram | Report as abusive

What a joke, the people of Alaska are going to elect a convicted felon. Why don’t we just allow Alaska to succeed from the union like they want, then Palin can become Queen of Alaska, and Ted Stevens can be king. The corrupt Queen and King can then rule over the corrupt nation of Alaska.

Posted by Joe The Plumber | Report as abusive

Hey John,
who’s the name caller in all this? Gov. Palin has been
smeared and slandered by the left wing unmercifully. The
Democrats like to think of themselves as the party of tolerance, but they are the least tolerant of anyone who doesn’t think in lock-step with them. The media sent hundreds of people to attempt to dig dirt on Gov. Palin and came up with nothing but a few old beauty pagent videos. How many reporters were assigned by the same newspapers/TV/magazine publishers to research Obama?

Read the constitution. There is no separation of church and state. That phrase was only used in A LETTER from Thomas Jefferson to a church in Connecticut. Freedom of religion means no government church, not freedom FROM religion.

Posted by DanS. | Report as abusive

John – I love to see liberals try to use facts to justify what they spew! However, what you are implying is some sort of a religious “test”. Last time I checked, the CONSTITUION garded against a religious test for anyone running for office. Separation of church and state, while important for american politics, is tradition, not Constitutional law. I love how Barack Obama was protected by you people in regard to what he believed – was he a muslim? OMG you can’t even ask that question, you liberals have said. What did he really believe in Jeremiah Wright’s church? How dare you even as that, you have said. But when it comes to Sarah Palin, you demand that she be excluded from office because what she believes. There’s only one word for this double-speak: hypocrisy!

Posted by Drew | Report as abusive

IF Sarah the Pathological Liar runs for Steven’s senate and wins, the people of Alaska are dumber than I think. The woman doesn’t have the intelligence of someone who has a MA, much less, an intellect to write and understand legislation. A senator Palin, would be a slap to any thinking person, sorry. Lots of us have Palin’s intellect, but we don’t have the hubris to think we are senator or presidential material.

Posted by IslandGyal | Report as abusive

Vote out all incumbants you can!

Posted by jason | Report as abusive

I want freedom from religion. Freedom from religion is my spiritual belief.

Posted by Robert | Report as abusive

I am incredibly proud of Palin.

She is an honorable, authentic, incredible woman that’s been the victim of the press and media, while Obama was their poster boy.

The power of the press and media to build or destroy was never more evident than in the attempt to ruin Palin as compared to their promotion of Obama. The intensity of the Palin character assassination was matched by the gushing exhuberance in endorsing the Obama candidacy. In the Palin case the media quickly adopted a strategy of ridicule to capitalize on criticizing every aspect of her being. In the Obama case the media crafted a positive image from every angle: family, character, career, etc. Magazines, TV newspapers presented wildly flattering reports. Care was taken to minimize every Obama foible or defend against any negative perspective. Of course, since the hard core leftists have no honor, the achievement of their objective justified any action, any distortion, any ploy. America has seen the 21st century version of Masters of Deceit. It is tragic that the purveyors celebrate their shame.

Posted by Elena | Report as abusive

In order to avoid criticism you must say nothing, do nothing and be nothing… and folks…… SHE IS SOMETHING. Something that is very threatening and needs to be destroyed by the left.

Posted by Jill | Report as abusive