GOP calls mount for Stevens to leave seat

A growing chorus of Republicans on Tuesday called for Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens to resign from a seat he's held for four decades.

But with the party bracing for losses in the upcoming election, many hope Stevens will first win re-election Tuesday, and then resign to give Republicans a chance to fill the seat with a fresh GOP face.

Stevens, 84, was convicted Monday of lying about hundreds of thousands of dollars in home renovations and gifts he received from a corrupt oil contractor. The verdict came down just a week before Election Day, too late for Republicans to put someone new on the ballot against Anchorage's mayor, Democrat Mark Begich.

Nevertheless, Republican presidential nominee John McCain and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell urged their Senate colleague to resign.

“It is clear that Sen. Stevens has broken his trust with the people and that he should now step down,” McCain said.

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, McCain's running mate, called on Stevens to step aside even if he's re-elected. Polls have been finding that race in a dead heat, although Stevens' conviction is so new to Alaskans that there's almost no telling yet how voters will react on Election Day.

It's a move away from her first statement hours after Monday's verdict, in which she called Stevens' conviction “a sad day” for Alaska but stopped short of demanding that he resign.

At a campaign event in Kentucky, the Senate minority leader called on Stevens to resign immediately, McConnell's spokesman, Don Stewart, said Tuesday night.

S.C. Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham also asked for Stevens to resign and “pursue his legal rights as a private citizen.” He was joined by fellow Republican Sens. Jim DeMint of South Carolina, Gordon Smith of Oregon and Norm Coleman of Minnesota.

The Democratic presidential ticket weighed in, too, with Barack Obama calling for Stevens to resign.

“Yesterday's ruling wasn't just a verdict on Sen. Stevens, but on the broken politics that has infected Washington for decades,” Obama said. “It's time to put an end to the corruption and influence-peddling, restore openness and accountability.”

The Associated Press and McClatchy Newspapers contributed.