WASHINGTON – Sens. Jim DeMint and Lindsey Graham on Tuesday called on fellow Republican Sen. Ted Stevens to resign from the Senate in light of his conviction on corruption charges.
Stevens became the first sitting senator convicted of felonies in 27 years Monday, when a jury found him guilty on all seven criminal counts of lying about free home renovations and accepting other gifts from a wealthy oilman.
"Service in the Senate demands the highest ethical standards," DeMint said. "Unfortunately, his conviction proved that he has failed to meet those standards, and he should resign immediately."
Alaska voters could toss Stevens from office next week on Election Day. Even before the conviction, he faced a stiff challenge from Mark Begich, the Democratic mayor of Anchorage.
DeMint and Graham joined fellow senators and presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama in urging Stevens to leave his post. As of 6 p.m. Tuesday, GOP Sens. Gordon Smith of Iowa and John Sununu of New Hampshire had also called on Stevens to resign.
Stevens has denied the charges and vowed to appeal the conviction.
Graham, campaigning with McCain, said Stevens shouldn’t wait for a final verdict.
"I respect the legal process, but it is in the best interests of the Senate and the nation as a whole for Senator Stevens to resign and pursue his legal rights as a private citizen," Graham said.
Stevens, former chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, has been in the Senate for almost 40 years, making him its longest-serving Republican member. He also chaired the Senate Ethics Committee for four years.