Republican presidential candidate John McCain called Tuesday for Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens to resign in the aftermath of his felony convictions in a federal corruption case, saying the longtime Republican "has broken his trust with the people."
McCain's running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, said Stevens should "step aside" but did not call for him to drop out of Tuesday's race for re-election. Her comments to CNBC left unclear whether she thinks Stevens should remain in the Senate while he appeals the case against him.
A jury on Monday found Stevens, 84, guilty on seven counts of trying to hide more than $250,000 in free home renovations and other gifts from a wealthy oil contractor. He asked his Senate colleagues as well as Alaska's voters to stand by him as he appeals the convictions.
A senator since 1968, Stevens faces re-election next week as a convicted felon. He could be sentenced to as many as 35 years in prison, but he was not expected to receive a harsh sentence. However, the Senate could expel Stevens even if he is re-elected.
In a statement issued by his campaign, McCain said the convictions were "a sign of the health of our democracy that the people continue to hold their representatives to account for improper or illegal conduct, but this verdict is also a sign of the corruption and insider-dealing that has become so pervasive in our nation's capital."
"It is clear that Sen. Stevens has broken his trust with the people and that he should now step down," McCain said. "I hope that my colleagues in the Senate will be spurred by these events to redouble their efforts to end this kind of corruption once and for all."
McCain and Stevens often clashed over so-called "earmarks," appropriations inserted into bills by senators seeking to fund home-state projects. McCain has opposed earmarks — he has cited them as a source of political corruption — while Stevens has proudly pointed to the billions of dollars in pork-barrel spending he has garnered for Alaska.