Stevens Bids Farewell
Sen. Ted Stevens, who conceded defeat to Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich yesterday, spoke on the floor of the U.S. Senate this morning for the last time in his 40 years serving in the upper chamber.
To sum up four decades of work in just a few minutes is tough, as Stevens noted, so he stuck to the causes he cares most deeply about: the welfare of Alaskans, particularly Alaska natives, the trans-Atlantic oil pipeline and Alaska fisheries. All three issues are certainly connected to Stevens’ life work of bringing Alaska into the modern age and making it a viable state. Federal laws that paved the way for construction of the pipeline and allowed U.S. corporations to dominate the fishing industry created the core of the state’s extraction economy.
“Many people doubted Alaska had what it takes to be a state,” Stevens said. “We proved those doubters wrong…Alaska was not Seward’s folly.”
Stevens even said that he had a motto over the last 40 years: “To hell with politics, just do what’s right for Alaska.”
Stevens is best known for the billions in federal dollars that he brought home. But he’s also known as a senator who works for individuals. Stevens touched on this in his farewell, saying he hopes the tradition continues after he is gone.
One of Stevens’ most frequently aired campaign ads that ran in October while I was in Anchorage told the story of a young woman living in a remote part of the state. Stevens helped her get the in-home nursing care to recover from an accident and return to college. She now works at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks.
I asked locals about the ad. Everyone I spoke with said that it resonates with Alaskans, who know Stevens will use his power to help individual Alaskans.
Stevens thanked his fellow members of the Alaska delegation, Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Rep. Don Young. Young is under federal investigation for ties to the same oil services company that landed Stevens in legal trouble.
He also acknowledged his “brother” Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii). The two are known to be longtime friends. Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W. Va.) cried after Stevens shook his hand.
Stevens’ only mention of his current legal problems, which lost him his bid for a seventh term in office, was to say that he looks forward to clearing his name. Stevens was convicted on seven counts of failing to disclose $250,000 worth of gifts from an oil services firm, Veco Corp., on his Senate disclosure forms.