Ensign Declines to Endorse Stevens Re-election Bid

Posted July 30, 2008 at 11:25am

National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Ensign (Nev.) declined to endorse incumbent Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) when queried about the indicted lawmaker’s tough re-election race by reporters on Wednesday.

“I’m not going to make any comment,” Ensign said. “There’s a process in place and we’re going to wait to see how that process plays out.”

Asked specifically whether he still endorses Stevens, Ensign replied: “I’ve said exactly what I was going to say … We’ll wait to see how the process plays out. There’s a primary.”

Ensign’s comments could be significant given that he was tapped by Senate GOP leaders to call on Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho) to resign after Craig pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor as part of a bathroom sex sting in the Minneapolis, Minn., airport last summer.

Craig is not running for re-election this November, but he stayed in the Senate to complete his term despite bowing to the initial pressure from GOP Senate leaders to resign.

Stevens, who was indicted on seven counts Tuesday for allegedly filing false financial disclosures, has five little known opponents in the Aug. 26 Republican primary — but two are spending heavily.

Even if he emerges from the primary, he will face a tough general election against Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich (D).

Many Republicans privately believe that they would have a better chance of holding Stevens’ seat if someone else were the GOP nominee. Stevens has vowed to stay in the race; it is already too late for him to get off the primary ballot. But if he wins the primary, he can withdraw from the race within a certain period and party leaders can name a replacement candidate.