Huffpost Politics

Democrat To Challenge Scandal-Plagued Alaska GOP Senator

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ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich said Wednesday he will form an exploratory committee to look into whether he should run for the Senate seat held by Ted Stevens.

Begich said at a news conference that he will make a final decision well before the June 1 deadline.

He said forming the committee will allow him to raise funds and talk to Alaskans, to see if they think it's time for a change of leadership.

Begich has been courted by the top Democratic leaders to challenge Stevens, who is being investigated by federal authorities in connection with a home remodeling project. Stevens is the nation's longest serving Republican senator.

Begich has taken several trips to Washington D.C. to meet with top-ranking senators.

Stevens, 84, was appointed to the Senate in 1968, won a special election two years later and has been re-elected six times. He filed for re-election last week. He is extremely popular in Alaska, where the state's largest airport is named in his honor.

But his legacy was tarnished last year when the FBI and the IRS raided his home in Girdwood, a ski resort community on Anchorage's southern edge.

Bill Allen, the former CEO of the oil field services company VECO Corp., testified in a corruption trial of a former state lawmaker that he oversaw the renovation project and sent his employees to work on it.

Stevens has declined to discuss the investigation, but has said he paid every bill presented him for the remodeling project that more than doubled the size of his home.