Alaska state Rep. Mike Kelly has written a letter to the editor calling on Senator Ted Stevens, among others, to announce their retirements in light of recent scandals. He does not delve into the details of the scandals surrounding those toward whom the letter is directed, but he does make it clear that they no longer enjoy the public’s trust. Kelly posits that Stevens’ continued “service” will do more harm than good for the Alaska Republican Party. Kelly is right, but I would extend that beyond the Party in Alaska. Stevens’ ethical questions reinforce the Democrats’ argument that the GOP is the Party of corruption. It is time to eliminate that perception.
What’s more, Stevens is anything but a conservative. As much as any other Senator and more than most, Stevens’ primary goal is bringing money back to his home state. I don’t doubt that Stevens actually believes that he is doing well by his constituents, but it is far from a conservative method of governing. Alaska needs a Senator focused on saving Alaskans money, not giving it back to them.
I have thought throughout the cycle that conservatives should be more concerned with defeating Democrats this cycle than defeating Republicans. Because he wants money for his state, Stevens will typically vote the Party line when the Leadership really leans on him. This is effectively a quid pro quo situation or, as I prefer to call it, mutual blackmail. Previously, this arrangement, while far from ideal, could have been considered acceptable. Stevens needed no protecting. Resources could have been concentrated elsewhere. And when push came to shove, Stevens typically voted our way on the most important votes, such as Supreme Court nominations.
Now, though, Stevens has lost even the faith of his Party, not to mention the rest of Alaska. If Stevens were safe, I would probably say it’s not worth the trouble to replace him in a primary. He no longer is. In fact, depending on the course of the investigation, the seat may very well be safer with a different candidate on the Republican ticket. That is why it is time for conservatives to unite around a primary challenger and show that we are no less serious about ethical reform than the Democrats pretend to be.