Battling to keep the job he's held for 40 years, Republican Sen. Ted Stevens plans to appeal directly to voters in a two-minute commercial on television stations across the state tonight.
The message comes a week after a jury convicted Stevens on seven felony counts of lying on his public disclosure forms -- and a day before voters will decide between Stevens and Democratic challenger and Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich at the ballot booth.
Stevens spokesman Aaron Saunders said Stevens will "address a variety of questions that Alaskans have been asking him since his return to the state" between 6 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. on stations around the state.
Much of the campaign spin in the final days of the Senate race has focused on whether Stevens got a fair trial in Washington, D.C., and whether he'll keep his Senate seat if re-elected. Stevens supporters -- such as longtime ally Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii -- say the Senate would allow Stevens to serve as he appeals what Inouye called an unjust verdict.
Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid said that's not true. "As precedent shows us, Senator Stevens will face an ethics committee investigation and expulsion, regardless of his appeals process," he said in a written statement over the weekend.
The Stevens campaign circulated a statement from former state Attorney General Charlie Cole calling the conduct of the federal prosecutors "seriously flawed" and predicting Stevens could win an appeal.
Sunday, local lawyers gathered by the Alaska Democratic party looked to counter that message.
"Sen. Stevens was not tried by a kangaroo court. He was tried in federal court and he had the best representation money can buy as his legal defense team," said Meg Simonian, a Democrat and lawyer who represented former state Rep. Pete Kott in his own federal corruption trial.
The Stevens camp calls tonight's infomercial a first in Alaska campaigns, and part of a campaign strategy that has included the use of social networking Web sites like MySpace and Facebook. (Where you can find Begich too.)
Speaking of which:
WALK THE LINE
Stevens and Begich both list a few of their favorite things on their Facebook sites.
Stevens, who turns 85 this month, says he enjoys working out, fishing the Kenai and reading memos. His favorite TV shows include "24," "Band of Brothers" and the World Series of Poker. He says he listens to the Four Tenors, Glenn Miller and Hobo Jim.
On Begich's Facebook page, the 46-year-old Anchorage mayor says he watches "The Wire," "Real Time with Bill Maher" and "Law & Order."
The page says he listens to Ray Charles and Elvis, Hannah Montana and 50 Cent.
Under "favorite music," Stevens and Begich both put the same artist at the front of their list: Johnny Cash.
CHURCH AND STATE
Several of the ushers wore campaign buttons for Stevens on Sunday at the Anchorage Baptist Temple, where it was hard not to read something into Pastor Jerry Prevo's candidates' day sermon.
Every Sunday before an Alaska election, local politicians flock to the church to say a quick hello to the congregation. This year, the Stevens campaign was one of the first to arrive, and Stevens sat three seats down from Begich as Prevo talked about giving thanks -- and forgiveness.
"We should not judge people based on losing one or two innings, or bouts, in life. We ought to judge people based on their whole life," he told the congregation.
Was he talking about Stevens, who was found guilty Monday on seven counts of lying on his federal disclosures?
"The message was generic, and everybody will take that message and apply it to that frame of mind that they're in today," Prevo said after the service.
What did Stevens think?
"I think he was talking about all of us, wasn't he? Like you too," Stevens said.
"I thought it was a very good message. But you're turning it political, and I'm not talking politics in church. Get that straight," he said.
In the lobby of the church, a CNN crew dangled a microphone above Stevens' head as Stevens could be heard telling a reporter "the jury did not hear what the court said about the prosecution using false testimony. ..."
"How angry are you about this?" the reporter asked.
"Well, not really that angry," he said.
The Baptist Temple congregation leans hard right, particularly on social issues. Asked if this was a home crowd for Stevens, Begich acknowledged Stevens has his fans at the church. "I also know many came to my booth and said hello," he said.
Find Kyle Hopkins' political blog online at adn.com/alaskapolitics or call him at 257-4334.