Inouye predicts Stevens will keep Senate seat

Alaska Senate Stevens 2008
U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens R-Alaska, left, listens to Democrat senate candidate Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich, on screen, answer a question during a congressional debate in Anchorage, Alaska Thursday. Al Grillo / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

Democratic Sen. Daniel Inouye provided a campaign boost Saturday to embattled Republican Sen. Ted Stevens, predicting that his colleague from Alaska will win re-election and overturn his conviction on appeal.

"I am absolutely confident that Ted Stevens will be sworn into the Senate while he appeals this unjust verdict," said Inouye, D-Hawaii, a longtime friend of Stevens. "I am certain that this decision in Washington, D.C., will be overturned on appeal."

Stevens was convicted last month by a jury in Washington on seven counts of lying on Senate disclosure forms to conceal more than $250,000 in gifts and renovations to his home from VECO Corp. founder Bill Allen.

Inouye's written statement was issued at the request of the Stevens campaign — an unusual case of a Democratic senator campaigning against a Democratic Senate candidate.

It seeks to counter Stevens' Democratic opponent, Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich, who says Stevens can't effectively represent the state while pursuing an appeal.

A call to resign
Several senators, both Republicans and Democrats, have called on Stevens to resign.

In a statement Saturday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid noted that GOP leaders including presidential candidate John McCain and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell have said Stevens should step down.

"While I respect the opinion of Senator Daniel Inouye, the reality is that a convicted felon is not going to be able to serve in the United States Senate," Reid said. "And as precedent shows us, Senator Stevens will face an ethics committee investigation and expulsion, regardless of his appeals process."

During Stevens' monthlong trial, Inouye testified on his behalf and called his colleague's reputation for truthfulness and honesty "absolute." The two are so close that Stevens' daughter calls Inouye "Uncle Dan."

"I've never known of him to lie," Inouye testified, "and I wouldn't expect him to."