Palin calls mulligan in Alaska Senate race after charges dropped

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin — who’s probably contemplating a few do-overs of her own — demanded Thursday that the state’s newly elected Democratic senator, Mark Begich, face a rematch with Republican Ted Stevens, whose seven pre-election felony convictions were thrown out this week by the feds.

“Alaskans deserve to have a fair election not tainted by some announcement that one of the candidates was convicted fairly of seven felonies, when in fact it wasn’t a fair conviction,” Palin told the Anchorage Daily News.

Palin, who urged Stevens to resign after his conviction a week before the election on charges he lied about receiving $250,000 in gifts from an oil tycoon, echoed the state’s Republican Party chairman’s call for a special election. GOP chief Randy Ruedrich said Begich defeated the 40-year incumbent because “a few thousand Alaskans thought that Senator Stevens was guilty of seven felonies,” the Daily News reports. Begich needs to resign, Ruedrich said, “so Alaskans may have the chance to vote for a senator without the improper influence of the corrupt Department of Justice.”

On Wednesday, Attorney General Eric Holder moved to dismiss the indictments against Stevens after he found the Bush administration prosecutors withheld notes from an interview with Bill Allen, the oil company executive who pleaded guilty to bribing state officials and is awaiting sentencing.

The Washington Independent’s Dave Wiegel points out Begich consistently led Stevens in the polls before the corruption conviction, and that absentee ballots cast before the verdict gave Begich the edge.

Alaska’s other senator, Republican Lisa Murkowski, begged to differ with Palin: “In light of the good news yesterday, I am sure many of us wish we could turn the clock back to last November. Unfortunately, that is not an option.”

Ruedrich’s Democratic counterpart, Patti Higgins, dismissed the grousing of Stevens’ backers. “The fact that the Obama Administration has decided to not pursue a case that the Bush Administration lawyers handled in a faulty manner does not take away the fact that Ted Stevens broke laws,” Higgins said in a statement.

As for Begich? He scoffed at the notion Stevens should get another bite at the Senate. In the sort of statement Democrats routinely trot out these days, pretty much regardless of the context, Begich rejected Palin’s call: “Today, with our country in a severe recession, it’s more important than ever that we have a senator focused on fixing our economy so Alaskans have the jobs they need to support their families.”

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