From Kyle Hopkins in Anchorage --
Here are a few excerpts from tonight's Senate race debate between Republican Sen. Ted Stevens and Democratic Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich. They're sorted by topic:
THE STEVENS GUILTY VERDICT
Moderator Michael Carey to Stevens: Though this will be a traditional debate most of the evening, there are some questions that only you can answer. After your conviction Monday on seven felony counts, you said that you would talk to Alaskans about your future and the future of Alaska.
Sen. McCain and Gov. Palin have asked you to step down in the meantime while you pursue your appeal.
If Gov. Palin and Sen. McCain were in this room, what would you say to them?
Stevens: Well the first thing I would tell them is that the case is still pending on the basis of motions which we filed for a new trial or for a dismissal of the case for prosecutorial misconduct.
I have not been convicted of anything.
I would tell them that I understand that they make statements during the heat of the campaign. And, and probably they’ve been a little misinformed by their staff. But I wouldn’t hold it against them. I understand what they’re doing. They’re trying to get elected.
I would have to say John, and, and Sarah, I understand.
Moderator Larry Persily: Sen. Stevens, you are asking Alaskans to reelect you while you fight to overturn the jury’s verdict. Meanwhile, your own party's leader in the senate … has called on you to resign. As effective as you’ve been for Alaska over your career, what can you do to ensure that effectiveness will continue if re-elected?
Stevens: Well, I think you ought to just look at what‘s been done since this trial has been going on, as a matter of fact. We passed a series of bills that I had introduced and had to go back to the senate while this trial was going on. I’ll think I’ll be effective. Effectiveness is a matter of experience. As far as the leader’s comments, he too is up for election.
They just wanted to get away from questions from the press about the situation. So they made the comment about well, maybe he should step down.
I’m not going to step down. I have not been convicted. I have a got a case pending against me, and probably the worst case of prosecutorial -- misconduct by the prosecutors -- that is known. I had a talk this afternoon, with one of the attorneys here, a former U.S. attorney, who told me he was appalled by what went on in that case.
So I think you’ll find out. I will succeed and I will be found innocent.
Carey: Senator are you suggesting that your critics in the congress, your Republican critics are just insincere and trying to win election and are just saying what’s convenient?
Stevens: I think that to a great extent they are. Do you want me to hold it against them?
Carey: Mayor Begich, power in the Senate, is as the Senator described, essentially built on seniority. How are you going to be an effective senator if you have no seniority. And don’t give us the answer that you’re going to work across party lines, because we’ve already heard that about 15 times.
Begich: Well, you’re going to hear it again to a certain extent. But I do want to say one thin early on and I understand what Sen. Stevens said there with all due respect, when he made the comment (about) the issue of his conviction. He is convicted. And this is an issue.
When you think about what the minority leader said, and that is the minority said very clearly, that there is 100 percent probability he will not be serving. He will be expelled from the senate. I take these folks at their word. …
What am I going to do? I think my experience Is very broad based. … as a mayor, an assembly member, a small business person. Someone who clearly understands who to reach across party lines. I have done that all my life in political service. And it is the way that Washington D.C. needs to change. The way it is in washing D.C. now is very partisan. Very one-sided. …
Tracy: … I have not heard you come out as strongly as you just did. I guess I’ll ask you yes or no -- do you think Sen. Stevens should resign?
Begich: I think it’s up to him to make that final call. But I have said that I believe this state can do better.
There is no question, that as we move to Nov. 4, I’ve campaigned about the issues. Talked about what’s important. But it’s clear to me that as I see every Republican in a leadership position saying that he will be expelled from the Senate if he gets elected, Alaska has to look to it’s future. Look to what we’re going to do and the issues that we’re going to deal with.
As I mentioned just a second ago with Michael. The issues we face are amazing .. The energy crisis, the economic crisis. But worrying about someone’s trial or appeal will distract form the issues that we face in this state.
… Sen. Stevens has some serious issues he will have to deal with that will district him formt he work that we need to do in this country and in this state.
Tracy: I don’t believe I got an answer to my question …
Begich: That’s for him to decide. He made that very clear -- he’s not going to step down. So we will make that decision Nov. 4. My belief is we will be successful and that step down will occur.
Moderator John Tracy: If elected, and if it becomes necessary, is Gov. Sarah Palin qualified to serve as president of the United States?
Begich: I’ve answered this question a lot of times. And my view is, the voters are going to make that decision. If she wins her election as the vice presidential nominee, as she is now, wins as vice president, come Nov. 4, that tells us she’s qualified.
Tracy: I’m going to come back. Sen. Stevens?
Stevens: Well I don’t understand your question in relation to his answer.
Tracy: Yeah, well I said I’m going to come back. But I’m going to give you a chance first.
Stevens: What was the question now?
Tracy: Is Gov. Palin qualified, sir, as president
Stevens: Yes she is. Yes she is. I think she is. She’s had experience as a mayor. She’s had experience, really, as a governor. And she is what I think the American women have sought for a long time, she’s another candidate for a presence of a woman in our national leadership. So I think she’s qualified and I think our people would like to see her become president, vice president.
I’d like to see her become president, as a matter of fact.
Tracy: Mr. Mayor, I’m going to insist on a yes or no answer.
Begich: Well John, on this one I think, again, the voters are going to make this decision. I think she has proven that she has some strong mettle out there. She’s been out there on the campaign trail. I think that the issue that I have not heard a lot about is where she stands on a lot of foreign policy issues, domestic policy.
I’ve heard her repeat more of the McCain line, but I’m interested in what she’s about. I’ve seen some interviews with her, but they’re not in depth and so I can’t judge that at this point. What I can tell you is, she has made the nomination. She will be there on the ticket on Nov. 4. If she wins, I guarantee you that she’s going to have to be ready.
… Your theory there is something’s going to happen to Sen. John McCain if he’s president.
Carey: It’s not my theory. I simply asked you if you thought she was qualified to be president.
Begich: The President. Well, she’s running for vice president, and she’s on the ticket.
THE WAR IN IRAQ
Tracy: Will the U.S., in your opinion, have a major military presence in Iraq five years from now?
Begich: I don’t believe so. I think there’s clear indication that we’re now winding down and moving our troops and getting ready to move our troops. I think the biggest issue’s going to be Afghanistan and Pakistan over the next several years.
Tracy: Sen. Stevens we still be there?
Stevens: I think we will have some presence there. It will be advisory only. But we’ve had troops in Europe for what, 50 years. I think we will be there on an advisory basis …
Carey: Knowing what you know now, do you think that the country of Iraq and Saddam Hussein played a role in the 9/11 attack on the United States?
Stevens: I know more than you think I know, and I believe they did.
Begich: I don’t believe they did.
Carey: For both of you -- we’ve heard for more than two decades that opening oil drilling to ANWR is just around the corner. Why should we believe that anymore, especially given that both presidential candidates in this race are against opening ANWR, and the Senate, with more Democrats, is about to become even more anti-opening ANWR?
Stevens: You used the right phrase at the end. Because we had a gaurantee from Sen. Jackson, Sen. Tsongas -- they helped us get the amendment that put aside a million and a half acres on the arctic for oil and gas exploration and develop -- that we’d have bipartisan support to build that line. Unfortunately, the lord took them from us. And since that time, the Democratic party has opposed the concept of building that line.
I really think that what we’ve got to do is find some way to deal with the situation. I don’t know how you get around this, though in terms of sending another Democrat down to join those who already oppose this. If They have 60 votes. If they can stop any debate concerning that one provision that allows us to explore that million and a half acres in the arctic, they will repeal that …
Begich: First I want to respond to that last comment … His assumption is that I would sell out Alaska for whatever national Democrat he’s referring to. … That is outrageous. There is no way, over my dead body, they’re going to get that repeal. If that ever happens, I’m going to be fighting it the whole time.
But this issue of ANWR? We have made it a Democrat, Republican issue when we shouldn’t have. This is an issue that should be talked about from an energy standpoint for this country. It’s in Alaska, it’s an important project for us … but it is a national energy policy. It needs to be part of the energy plan. I think that’s how you have to repackage it and put it down on the table.
In the Senate right now, the Republican energy plan, ANWR’s not part of it. … They’re no longer listening to Ted Stevens on this issue. …