ABC News' Imtiyaz Delawala Reports: Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has called on her state’s senior senator, Ted Stevens, to resign from his Senate seat after his conviction yesterday for violating federal ethics laws.
“After being found guilty on seven felony counts, I had hoped Senator Stevens would take the opportunity to do the statesman-like thing and erase the cloud that is covering his Senate seat. He has not done so,” Palin said in a statement released by the campaign this afternoon. “Alaskans are grateful for his decades of public service but the time has come for him to step aside.”
Palin added that even if Sen. Stevens is re-elected next Tuesday, he should “step aside to allow a special election to give Alaskans a real choice of who will serve them in Congress.”
Stevens has maintained his innocence and has not indicated he will drop his bid for re-election.
“He needs to step aside and allow our state to elect someone who will be supportive of those ideals of America – the free enterprise, the missions that we’re on to win the war, those things that have got to take place in order to progress this country,” Palin added in an interview that aired this afternoon on CNBC. “Ted Stevens has got to play a very statesmanlike role in this now.”
Palin’s running mate Sen. John McCain also called on Stevens to resign his Senate seat, releasing a statement this morning saying, “It is clear that Senator Stevens has broken his trust with the people and that he should now step down. 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.”
Following Stevens’ conviction yesterday afternoon, Palin made a brief statement to reporters on the tarmac of the Richmond, Virginia airport, but did not explicitly call then for Stevens to resign.
“And as governor of the state of Alaska, I'll carefully now monitor the situation and I'll take any appropriate action as needed,” Palin read from a paper statement, standing at a podium set up by staff on the airport tarmac. “In the meantime, I do ask that the people of Alaska join me in respecting the workings of our judicial system, and I'm confident that Senator Stevens, from this point on, will do the right thing for the state of Alaska.”
In her statement yesterday, Palin said the verdict against Stevens “shines a light though on the corrupting influence of the big oil service company up there in Alaska that was allowed to control too much of our state,” referring to the Alaskan oil services company VECO that Stevens was convicted of improperly accepting gifts and services from. Palin added the company's influence "was part of the culture of corruption that I was elected to fight. And that fight must always move forward regardless of party affiliation or seniority or even past service."
After reading her statement, reporters yelled out asking whether she would vote for Stevens and if he should resign. Palin ignored the questions as she boarded her campaign plane.