The day after beating six challengers in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate, Sen. Ted Stevens talked Wednesday about his next challenge: Defending his seat against Democratic Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich.
While picking up an NRA endorsement at an Anchorage sporting goods store, Stevens answered questions from reporters. Here's a sampling of what he said:
Q. You've had ... some time to think about it. How do you read last night's numbers?
A. I read that I'm substantially ahead of my opponent going into the general election. We had more Republicans turned out than Democrats, and more of them voted for me than voted for him.
Q. You had a good showing, but also 35,000 Republicans said no; how do you bring those folks back into your camp?
A. ... That's a primary. I expect those people to come back into the fold in the general election. We had more votes than the Democrats ...
I think that was a pretty good success yesterday, and I've congratulated my colleagues on the other side. Dave Cuddy in particular. He ran a very good race and you know I've known him for a long time. ... I expect those voters to come and support me in the general election.
They're certainly not going to support someone who supports Sen. Obama. I'll tell you right now.
Q. You're using the word liberal a lot the last couple days, are you telling voters that if you're not elected ...
A. If I'm not elected, you're going to send down there someone who is going to join the Obama crowd and join those who have opposed Alaska. Take Joe Biden.
Joe Biden's a friend of mine, but in the '70s he voted five times against the oil pipeline. He doesn't support drilling in Alaska. He doesn't support exploration in Alaska.
... Our way of life is an anathema to them. And I think we should not send someone down there to help them, give them a chance that they might have 60 votes in the Senate so we couldn't possibly stop some of these bills that we've stopped over the years, that would hurt gun rights or hurt Alaska.
Q. You've appeared very relaxed in light of what's going on ... you won't even entertain the option of stepping down?
A. You guys always ask that question. Lets put that down. That will never happen, ever.
I am not stepping down. I am going to run through, I'm going to win this election. The election is my goal right now. The court case going to go on. Whether it's finished or not, I'm still going to run for re-election.
Q. How are you going to campaign during the trial?
A. Look around you. My surrogates. We're going to keep this campaign going, every day, it'll be just like I'm here. And I'm liable to be here.
... I'm going to be on the phone, I'm going to be encouraging these people around here helping me, every day. What, you think I'm going to go to sleep or something?
Q. If voters are going to see images of you going to court and then see you in campaign ads ...
A. (To a Daily News reporter) I'm sure that you'll put that in the paper. That's your right. It's a free country. You know what? Alaskans know what I'm doing back there, and why I'm back there. I didn't cause that. So, I have confidence in the outcome of this trial.
I know that. I have faith in Alaska. Faith in Alaskans. And faith in God and I believe I'm going to win. ... You continue to ask the same questions, I would hope you would put the answers in the paper some time. OK?
Q. You can be found guilty, you can win, and you can still serve?
A. I can still serve.
We're talking about a provision that requires me to disclose gifts. And I'm saying I did not receive those gifts. I've pleaded not guilty.
(To a Daily News reporter): Your paper sort of continues to presume I'm guilty. Your questions presume I'm guilty. Why don't you be an Alaskan, and presume I'm innocent until someone proves that. OK?