The 2008 United States Senate election in Alaska was held on November 4, 2008. Incumbent Republican U.S. Senator and former President pro tempore Ted Stevens ran for re-election to a seventh term in the United States Senate. It was one of the ten Senate races that U.S. Senator John Ensign of Nevada, the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, predicted as being most competitive. The primaries were held on August 26, 2008. Stevens was challenged by Democratic candidate Mark Begich, the mayor of Anchorage and son of former U.S. Representative Nick Begich.
On October 27, 2008, Stevens was convicted on seven charges of ethics violations and corruption. If reelected, Stevens would have been the first convicted felon elected to the United States Senate. On November 18, 2008, the Associated Press called the race for Begich, making Stevens the longest-serving U.S. Senator ever to lose a re-election bid. Stevens conceded the race to Begich on November 19. As of 2021, this is the most recent statewide race in Alaska won by a Democrat.
The FBI investigation and subsequent seven count indictment of Ted Stevens, as well as investigation of the state's only Representative, Don Young (R), generated some negative feelings in Alaska towards Republicans, even among Republican primary voters. Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich (son of the last Democratic Rep. from Alaska, Nick Begich) was courted by both the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. In February 2008, he announced the formation of an exploratory committee for the Senate seat. The possible Democratic field also included former Governor Tony Knowles, State Rep. Eric Croft and State Senators Hollis French and Johnny Ellis. Former Minority Leader of the Alaska House of Representatives Ethan Berkowitz was considered a possible candidate, but he decided to challenge Don Young instead. Sensing discontentment within the GOP, conservative Republican Dave Cuddy announced his candidacy for U.S. Senate in December 2007.
Stevens was perceived by many as corrupt, but was also highly regarded by many Alaskans for his ability to steer federal funding toward the state; he was the longest-serving Republican in the Senate entering 2008 (first elected in 1968), and through his seniority he amassed a great deal of influence there. The selection of Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin as the vice-presidential running-mate of Republican presidential candidate John McCain in late August 2008 coincided with a substantial improvement in Stevens' performance in opinion polls. A poll in August showed Begich with a 17% lead, but in early September a poll from the same source showed Begich leading Stevens by only 3%. Begich's campaign and some observers attributed this change to Palin's popularity and the enthusiasm stimulated by her selection, although Palin's own reputation was partially based on her perceived opposition to Stevens or distance from him. The Stevens campaign disputed the low numbers shown in the August poll and said that the numbers had improved in September because Stevens had begun heavily campaigning. His campaign also presented the relationship between Palin and Stevens as positive, contrary to some portrayals.
Stevens was convicted of seven felony counts of failing to report gifts on October 27, 2008. This was considered a serious setback in his already difficult bid for re-election; he had requested and received a quick trial in hopes of winning an acquittal before election day. After the verdict, Stevens maintained his innocence and said that he was still running for re-election.
- Mark Begich, Anchorage Mayor
- Ray Metcalfe, former State Representative and founder of the Republican Moderate Party of Alaska
- Frank Vondersaar, perennial candidate
|Alaskan Independence||Bob Bird||4,216||5.56%|
- Michael Corey, judge, attorney
- David Cuddy, former State Representative
- Gerald Heikes, minister
- Rick Sikma, pastor
- Ted Stevens, incumbent U.S. Senator since 1968
- Vic Vickers, former assistant State Comptroller
- Richard Wanda
With three and a half weeks to go before the primary, Stevens still held a large polling lead over chief rival Dave Cuddy, 59% to 19%. Political newcomer Vic Vickers said on July 28 that he expected to pour $750,000 of his own money into his bid to defeat Stevens. According to Rasmussen polling of Alaskans, Cuddy "does nearly as well against Begich" as Stevens, trailing Begich 50% to 35%, while Vickers trailed the expected Democratic nominee 55% to 22%.
In the Republican primary on August 26, results from 70.5% of precincts showed Stevens winning with 63% of the vote; Cuddy had 28% and Vickers had 6%.
|Republican||Ted Stevens (incumbent)||66,900||63.52%|
- Mark Begich (D), Mayor of Anchorage
- Ted Stevens (R), incumbent U.S. Senator
- Bob Bird (AI)
- Fredrick "David" Haase (L)
- Ted Gianoutsos (I)
|Research 2000||December 3–6, 2007||47%||41%|
|Rasmussen Reports||April 7, 2008||45%||46%|
|DSCC||May 6–10, 2008||51%||44%|
|Research 2000||May 12–14, 2008||48%||43%|
|Rasmussen Reports||May 14, 2008||47%||45%|
|Rasmussen Reports||June 16, 2008||44%||46%|
|Research 2000||July 14–16, 2008||47%||45%|
|Rasmussen Reports||July 17, 2008||52%||44%|
|Rasmussen Reports||July 30, 2008||50%||37%|
|Ivan Moore Research||July 31, 2008||56%||35%|
|Ivan Moore Research||August 30 – September 2, 2008||49%||46%|
|Rasmussen Reports||September 9, 2008||48%||46%|
|Research 2000||September 15–17, 2008||50%||44%|
|Rasmussen Reports||October 6, 2008||48%||49%|
|Research 2000||October 14–16, 2008||48%||46%|
|Rasmussen Reports||October 28, 2008||52%||44%|
|Research 2000||October 28–30, 2008||58%||36%|
Begich won the election by 3,953 votes. Incumbent Stevens had held a lead of over 3,000 votes after election night, but a tally of nearly 60,000 absentee and mail-in ballots released on November 12 erased that lead and reduced the vote margin separating the candidates to less than 0.5%, with further counting, released on November 18, increasing the margin to more than 1% in favor of Begich. On November 19, 2008, Stevens conceded to Begich.
|Republican||Ted Stevens (incumbent)||147,814||46.52%|
|Alaskan Independence||Bob Bird||13,197||4.15%|
|Democratic gain from Republican|
- Kate Phillips, G.O.P. Leader Maps Senate Elections The New York Times, June 13, 2008
- 2008 Primary Election Information Archived August 5, 2008, at the Wayback Machine Division of Elections from the Alaska Secretary of State
- Alaska Senator Found Guilty of Lying About Gifts, New York Times, October 27, 2008
- "Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens found guilty of lying about gifts from contractor". Los Angeles Times. October 27, 2008. Archived from the original on October 28, 2008. Retrieved October 27, 2008.
- Yardley, William. "Senator Stevens hanging by a thread in Alaska." The New York Times, November 5, 2008. Retrieved on November 5, 2008
- "Stevens loses Alaska Senate seat to Democrat". Associated Press. NBC News. November 18, 2008. Retrieved November 18, 2008.
- Nichols, John (July 30, 2007). "Ted Stevens -- and Senate GOP -- In Trouble". The Nation. Archived from the original on July 8, 2008. Retrieved March 17, 2014.
- Josh Kraushaar (September 10, 2008). "Palin popularity buoys Stevens". Politico. Retrieved July 18, 2016.
- John Bresnahan (October 27, 2008). "Jury: Stevens guilty on seven counts". Politico. Retrieved July 18, 2016.
- Glenn Thrush and Daniel W. Reilly (October 27, 2008). "Stevens vows to remain a candidate". Politico. Retrieved July 18, 2016.
- Aaron Blake (February 27, 2008). "Begich's entry tees up first tough reelection race in Stevens's career". The Hill. Retrieved July 18, 2016.
- "Founder of Republican Moderate Party of Alaska Will Run as a Democrat for US Senate". Ballot Access News. December 3, 2007. Retrieved July 18, 2016.
- Fredrick "David" Haase - Libertarian. The Anchorage Daily News. August 19, 2008.
- DavidforAlaska.com Archived September 8, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
- "Official Primary Election Results" (PDF). State of Alaska: Division of Elections. September 18, 2008. Archived from the original (PDF) on November 27, 2008. Retrieved December 3, 2008.
- Anchorage developer plans to challenge Stevens for Senate seat Fairbanks Daily News-Miner December 22, 2007. Retrieved December 26, 2007.[dead link]
- "Stevens Sinks in Alaska Senate Race". Political Wire. August 2, 2008. Archived from the original on August 6, 2008. Retrieved August 4, 2008.
- "Newcomer candidate says he can beat Stevens". Anchorage Daily News. July 29, 2008. Archived from the original on July 16, 2012. Retrieved August 4, 2008.
- "50% still regard Stevens favorably and don't want him to resign". Alaska Daily News. July 31, 2008. Archived from the original on August 30, 2008. Retrieved August 4, 2008.
- Michael O'Brien (August 27, 2008). "Stevens wins primary, Young locked in a nail biter". The Hill. Retrieved July 18, 2016.
- Race Ratings Chart: Senate Archived October 28, 2010, at the Wayback Machine CQ Politics
- "2008 Senate Race Ratings". The Cook Political Report. October 9, 2008. Retrieved July 18, 2016.
- "2008 Senate Ratings". The Rothenberg Political Report. September 29, 2008. Retrieved July 18, 2016.
- Cockerham, Sean (November 13, 2008). "Begich takes lead in latest vote count". Anchorage Daily News. Archived from the original on November 29, 2008. Retrieved November 13, 2008.
- Stevens concedes; Begich savors first day of senate elect status Alaska Public Radio Network. Retrieved on November 19, 2008.
- Alaska Division of Elections
- U.S. Congress candidates for Alaska at Project Vote Smart
- Alaska U.S. Senate race from Congress.org
- Alaska, U.S. Senate from CQ Politics
- Alaska U.S. Senate race from The Green Papers
- Alaska U.S. Senate from OurCampaigns.com
- Alaska U.S. Senate race from 2008 Race Tracker
- Campaign contributions from OpenSecrets.org
- Stevens vs Begich graph of multiple polls from Pollster.com
- 2008 Election from The Anchorage Daily News newspaper
Official campaign websites