Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens said Thursday his re-election race this year would be tough but he expects to win even with the ongoing federal investigation of both he and his son.
"Despite all this baloney out there, I think the people of the state will re-elect me," Stevens said.
Stevens filed his re-election paperwork Thursday at the state elections office in Midtown Anchorage.
The 84-year-old is the longest serving Republican in Senate history. If he wins re-election and takes the oath for another six-year term in January, he would be 91 at the end of it. Stevens addressed his health when a reporter asked about his "fitness to serve."
"I'm fit to serve, you want to take me on right now?" Stevens said, playing like he was about to scrap.
He was appointed to the U.S. Senate in 1968 and hasn't had a close election since.
"I'm going to be involved in a lot of arguments about what I've done," Stevens said. "But I'm telling you, we've been on a roll, my staff and I, and I think we've been doing a damn good job."
Stevens refused to discuss the federal investigation, repeatedly deflecting question.
"I'm telling you as a lawyer, if you were in my place you'd do exactly what I'm doing -- and that is listen to the people who are advising you and listen to the people who have been through this before," Stevens said. "And don't complicate this issue with trying to say something that could be misunderstood, and if it was misunderstood you'd suddenly find yourself charged with obstruction of justice."
The federal probe will loom large over this campaign season. Alaska Congressman Don Young is also running for re-election while under investigation and won't talk about it.
FBI and IRS agents raided Stevens' Girdwood home in July in connection with a renovation job managed by the defunct oilfield services company Veco Corp. A former Veco executive testified during the corruption trials of state lawmakers last year that he bribed Stevens' son, Ben, a former president of the state Senate. Federal grand juries have been hearing evidence involving both Stevenses but have charged neither of them with any wrongdoing.
Stevens said he'll be a big target in this election. He said he would be in the cross-hairs of foes ranging from bloggers to the top Democrats in the U.S. Senate.
"So believe me, this race is going to be a really strong race," Stevens said.
National Democrats are wooing Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich to run against him. Begich hasn't committed to run, while Democrats Ray Metcalfe, Rocky Caldero and Frank Vondersaar have. Ted Gianoutsos is on the ballot by independent petition.
Stevens also faces Republican primary challenges from Jerry Heikes and David Cuddy, a developer and former state legislator who also ran against Stevens in 1996.
Stevens seemed unconcerned about Cuddy going for a rematch. "I really don't think much about it," he said.
Cuddy's not convinced Stevens will stay in the race. But Cuddy said he would regardless have a strong chance against Stevens in a closed Republican primary. Cuddy said his message of small government and personal responsibility would resonate.
Stevens talked about his experience in the Senate and said it would help the state.
"I want to find some way to break through these roadblocks that these people -- it's the same people every time, it's the extreme environmentalists that just insist on holding up our development," Stevens said.
Find Sean Cockerham online at adn.com/contact/scockerham or call him at 257-4344.