"He's done" is the pronouncement of a Republican insider on Alaska Republican Sen. Ted Stevens after his conviction Monday on seven felony counts for lying about receiving $250,000 in gifts, mostly home renovations to his Alaska chalet.
That pithy analysis has become the conventional wisdom on whether Stevens, who faces voters November 4, can survive the election. Before the verdict, he had been neck and neck in the polls against the Democratic mayor of Anchorage, Mark Begich.
His conviction gives Democrats a shot at winning a seat few had dreamed would be in play in this heavily Republican state. Already, Democrats are hoping to pick up for several new Senate seats—and the Stevens conviction could bring them even closer to a filibuster-proof majority.
Stevens, 84, had long been heralded as Alaska's "senator for life." He was appointed in 1968 and re-elected seven times. He has the distinction of serving in the Senate longer than any Republican in history.
Now that chapter is seriously tarnished, since Stevens is the fourth sitting senator ever to be convicted of criminal charges.
"It's not over yet," he reportedly assured his wife as they left a federal courthouse in Washington, D.C. There is no law against felons serving in the Senate, and Stevens quickly issued a statement saying he would appeal the jury's verdict.
But even Republicans are rushing to judgment, saying his days are done. One was GOP Sen. John Ensign of Nevada, who leads the National Republican Senatorial Committee. "Ted Stevens served his constituents for over 40 years and I am disappointed to see his career end in disgrace," Ensign said in a statement. "Senator Stevens had his day in court and the jury found he violated the public's trust—as a result he is properly being held accountable. This is a reminder that no one is above the law."
Instantly, there were suggestions that Stevens should call it quits. "Senator Stevens's felony convictions are very serious and he should immediately resign," said Patti Higgins, chair of the Alaska Democratic Party. "He knew what he was doing was wrong, but he did it anyway and lied to Alaskans about it. Alaskans deserve better from their public officials."
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, also in a tough re-election fight, was campaigning in Kentucky and had no immediate comment, an aide said.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was expected to call the verdict a "personal tragedy for our colleague," an aide said. Reid also planned to the say charges cast a shadow over the Senate, but remind that no man is above the law and conclude: "Justice has now been served."
Stevens, even in the unlikely scenario that he survives next Tuesday, could face expulsion proceedings. That requires a two-thirds vote in the Senate. He was convicted for failing to report gifts on Senate financial disclosure forms in a wide-ranging corruption probe. His troubles surfaced when the FBI raided his house in July 2007 during a bribery and influence-peddling probe involving an oil company. The same probe already has brought down a handful of state lawmakers.
Stevens has been a champion of pork-barrel spending and was a proponent of the doomed $278 million "Bridge to Nowhere."
But he has been as famous for his Incredible Hulk neckties and hot temper as for the federal largesse he steered to his state.
Bethany Lesser, a state Democratic Party spokeswoman, cited the federal dollars he brought home to Alaska as one reason state Democrats are not counting Stevens out, especially in a state that has not sent a Democrat to Congress in 35 years.
"He's done amazing things for Alaska, and everyone has deep respect for him," she said. "But our hope is it's time to move on and start building new seniority with a new senator."