A Rasmussen poll of 500 likely Alaska voters taken on April 7th, 2008 shows that Alaska's senior Republican U.S. Senator Ted Stevens has caught up with his presumptive challenger, Anchorage's Democratic Mayor Mark Begich. I use "presumptive" because Begich has not officially filed a candidacy, although on February 27th, he formed an exploratory committee, which permits him to raise money and is considered the final step towards a formal candidacy.
The results of the poll:
Ted Stevens - 46 percent
Mark Begich - 45 percent
Other - 4 percent
Not Sure - 5 percent
This represents an improvement over the results of the last poll taken on December 10th, 2007 which showed Stevens trailing Begich 41 percent to 47 percent at that time. However, that poll was taken by the Daily Kos, a different pollster who may use different methods. Nevertheless, it does show a slight improving trend for Stevens. A Hays Research Poll conducted March 12th merely asked if respondents approved or disapproved of Ted Stevens and did not match him up against Begich.
However, before either candidate could react to the poll itself, another controversy surfaced. The Alaska Politics blog revealed that the BegichBaggage website, a partisan resource operated under the auspices of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), released copies of documentation showing previous tax liens against Mark Begich during the 1990s. In 1995, Begich and North Star Vending had a federal tax lien placed against them because of an unpaid balance of $8,820.81 in employer payroll taxes. In 1997, it happened again; this time, the unpaid balance was $8,024.88. The two liens were for nine separate taxes from 1992, 1993 and 1995 that weren't fully paid. The NRSC's purpose was to portray that while Begich had no problem hiking other people's taxes, he had difficulty paying his own. Copies of the actual IRS documents are accessible HERE.
However, Mark Begich immediately responded. In another post on the Alaska Politics blog, Begich stated the following:
"I've started and operated small businesses for 30 years, with my first one at age 16," Begich said. "Like with all small businesses, some have been successful and some not, but I've always paid my taxes, made payroll to my employees and I believe everyone should pay their taxes. Like many people who own struggling businesses, in both of these cases, we paid the taxes as soon as we were able to, which was within a few months of receiving the lein."
"I believe in full disclosure," Begich went on to say. "If I become a candidate for the Senate, I will release my past income tax statements to Alaska voters. I think a candidate's personal finances should be part of the public record."
The revelation of Begich's decade-old tax difficulty is eyewash. The NRSC is out of touch with reality if they think this will actually make a difference. And Ted Stevens apparently agrees; KTUU Channel 2 reported that Stevens issued a press release dissociating himself from the NRSC action. Stevens also sent a letter to Begich assuring him that he (Stevens) had nothing to do with the NRSC's actions asking him to respond in kind by rejecting those tactics and disavowing the RetireTed website which was started earlier as a partisan website against Stevens.
But there are a host of other candidates competing for attention and votes. The Alaska Division of Elections maintains a list of candidates, but it is not current. Here's the most current list of declared candidates already in the U.S. Senate race:
- Ray Metcalfe, Democrat: Campaign website HERE; campaign blog HERE.
- Frank Vondersaar, Democrat: Current campaign website HERE. Holdover websites from previous campaigns HERE and HERE.
- Ted Stevens, Republican: Official U.S. Senate website HERE.
- Gerald Heikes, Republican: Campaign website HERE.
- Dave Cuddy, Republican: Campaign website HERE.
- Richard Wanda, Republican: No known website.
- Ted Gianoutsos, Veterans Party: Campaign website HERE.
And the race may get even more crowded. According to another post on the Alaska Politics blog, Bob Bird says he's "very close" to declaring a run against Ted Stevens as a candidate from the Alaskan Independence Party. Bird previously ran against Stevens back in the 1990 Republican primary and collected 30 percent of the vote.
The 56-year-old Bird teaches subjects like social studies and government at Nikiski High School. He's a board member and past president of Alaska Right to Life. He describes himself as a "Ron Paul candidate," with a peace and Constitutional platform.
And that could be bad news for Ted Stevens. AIP candidates tend to take more votes from Republicans than Democrats. In 1994, AIP gubernatorial candidate Jack Coghill scored enough votes to allow Democrat Tony Knowles to squeak by Republican Jim Campbell by 536 votes in the recount.