Former Sen. Ted Stevens Killed in Alaska Plane Crash
Update 5:18 p.m. | Michael Carey, a columnist for the Anchorage Daily News who has appeared on the NewsHour several times to discuss Alaska politics, offered this assessment of Stevens’ career:
Stevens was not a reformer. He accepted the world as he found it, believing — rule one — politics is transactional. You help me, I help you. He helped Alaskans through the legislative process and appropriations; we helped him by bestowing our votes on him every Election Day.
I once set up an interview with Stevens. He agreed to meet me at a local coffee shop for breakfast. The interview never happened. We were repeatedly interrupted by Alaskans who wanted “just a little word” with the great senator. They were looking for a federal appropriation for their favorite project.
As the requests for helped piled up, I realized I was having breakfast not with a politician but a fertility god who, with the single word “yes,” could bestow millions of dollars on a humble supplicant.
Update 4:32 p.m. | Here are some statements from senators:
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell:
It is with deep sadness that Elaine and I note the passing of a friend and former colleague, Senator Ted Stevens. In the history of our country, no one man has done more for one state than Ted Stevens. His commitment to the people of Alaska and his nation spanned decades, and he left a lasting mark on both. From his early military service as a pilot in World War II, to his involvement in the statehood of “The Last Frontier,” to his fierce support and defense of our nation’s military, Ted Stevens was always there, fighting for what he believed in, and usually winning. He was a force to be reckoned with, and we will miss him greatly. We extend our deepest sympathies to Catherine and the entire Stevens family, and to the families of the friends who were lost in this terrible accident.
Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.:
Ted Stevens loved his state, he loved his country and served it in uniform and in other ways from World War II on, and he loved the Senate. I worked with him for 34 years on the Senate Appropriations Committee, and we traveled together to Alaska and overseas, visiting our men and women in uniform.
He was a tough negotiator and a savvy legislator. But as I told him again last month, he was an old-school senator. He always kept his word to me and to other senators. In moments of legislative battle he would come onto the floor wearing his Hulk tie, and he would growl and act like a bulldog. But then he would spot friends on the floor and give a wink and a grin.
I will miss him, and Marcelle and I send our love and condolences to Catherine, Lily and all of Ted’s family.
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah:
“Today, America lost a legend, a patriot and a gentle warrior who never stopped fighting for his beloved state of Alaska or for what he believed in. Ted Stevens is irreplaceable – his fierce loyalty and spirit remain unrivalled in the United States Senate. He will be greatly missed, but his legacy will always live on. My thoughts and prayers go out to the entire Stevens family during these most difficult times.
Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, who defeated Stevens in the 2008 Senate race, called the longtime Alaska senator: “one of its greatest statesmen and a true pioneer of our state.”
Over his four decades of public service in the U.S. Senate, Senator Stevens was a forceful advocate for Alaska who helped transform our state in the challenging years after Statehood.”
Senator Stevens’ many contributions to Alaska are enormous and his legacy of fierce devotion to Alaska will be long-lasting.
Deborah and I join all Alaskans in praying for Senator Stevens’ wife, Catherine, and his extended family. Let us also remember the other victims of this terrible tragedy. Our thoughts and prayers are also with their families.
Update: 3:15 p.m. | More on Stevens’ life and career from Senate records and his bio: Stevens began his career before Alaska became a state and became an uncompromising advocate for the 49th state, delivering many projects to one of the most sparsely populated states.
In his 40-year Senate career, Stevens became the longest-serving Republican in Senate history and the seventh-longest-serving member. He cast the fifth-most votes with 15,033.
Stevens was born in Indianapolis in 1923. He served in the Army Air Corps in World War II in China from 1943 to 1946. He later attended Oregon State College and Montana State College, later earning his law degree from Harvard Law School in 1950.
He then worked in the Interior Department, but left to practice law in Anchorage where he was elected to the state House of Representatives in 1964. He served as the speaker pro tempore and majority leader, and was appointed to fill the U.S. Senate seat of the late E.L. Bartlett in 1968.
In the Senate, he was Republican whip between 1977 and 1985 and president pro tempore from 2003 to 2007.
In 2008, a federal grand jury indicted him for allegedly making false statements on financial disclosure paperwork. He was convicted and lost a re-election bid, but a federal judge threw out the conviction in 2009, citing prosecutorial misconduct.
Update: 3:15 p.m. | Miles O’Brien reports on Twitter that O’Keefe and his son survived the crash:
Alive! Sean O’Keefe and son Jonathan survive Alaska plane crash. Broken bones but survivable.
Update: 2:40 p.m. | A family spokesman, Mitch Rose, confirmed to The Associated Press that longtime Republican Sen. Ted Stevens, 86, was among those killed and that his family has been notified.
Maj. Guy Hayes, a spokesman for the Alaska Air National Guard, said rescue crews were working to get at least three injured people away from the scene. He said it’s possible there may be more survivors.
“They have definitely worked on two people. They’re working on a third person to get him out of there right now,” said Hayes, who noted that rough terrain has complicated rescue efforts.
“It’s been pretty difficult to get into the area,” Hayes said. “It took them roughly about 12 hours, i think, from when the plane was spotted by good Samaritans until we got there on scene.”
There is no word yet on former NASA administrator Sean O’Keefe, who was also aboard the plane.
Former Sen. Ted Stevens may have been aboard a small plane that crashed in western Alaska around 7 p.m. Monday evening, according to news agencies and other media reports.
From the AP:
A plane believed to be carrying eight people, including former Sen. Ted Stevens and former NASA Administrator Sean O’Keefe, crashed in southwest Alaska and rescue crews were trying to reach the wreckage Tuesday morning, authorities said.
And from the Anchorage Daily News:
The aircraft, which was reported overdue, bears the tail number N455A, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. That aircraft is a 1957 DeHavilland DHC-3 Otter registered to GCI, according to FAA records. The FAA did not immediately provide other information about how it knows that this is the aircraft.
Friends of former U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens said he was traveling Monday to the GCI-owned Agulowak Lodge near Lake Aleknagik, and they were concerned for him.
Stevens is the longest serving Republican senator in history. He lost his re-election bid in 2008 to Democrat Mark Begich amid accusations of corruption. Those charges were later dropped because of prosecutor misconduct.