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Ensign Joins Call for Stevens’ Resignation

National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Ensign (Nev.) ratcheted up his criticism Wednesday of recently convicted Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) and called on him to resign.

Ensign, who acknowledged that Republicans are experiencing political turbulence across the board, told MSNBC’s Norah O’Donnell that Stevens should step down so Alaskans can hold a special election for his seat. The Nevada Republican had harsh words for Stevens earlier this week, but before Wednesday had yet not urged the 85-year-old Senator to relinquish his post.

“Sen. Stevens should do the right thing,” Ensign said. “He should step down so they can determine the best way to represent the people in Alaska.”

A growing chorus of Republican Senators have called on Stevens to step aside in the wake of his conviction on seven felony counts for failing to report gifts on financial disclosure forms. The longest-serving GOP Senator has vowed to press ahead, however.

Either way, Stevens’ name will remain on Tuesday’s ballot, where he is facing off against Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich (D). The race has been tightening in recent weeks, but Stevens’ conviction Monday could tip the scales against him.

“Even if Stevens resigned, he would still be on Tuesday’s ballot,”Alaska Division of Elections Director Gail Fenumiai said on Wednesday. “If Stevens wins re-election Tuesday, he would have a choice on how to proceed from there.”

If Stevens prevailed on Election Day and later resigned, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the GOP vice presidential nominee, would have the opportunity to make a temporary appointment and order a special election within 60 to 90 days.

Also on Wednesday, Ensign appeared to backtrack on comments he made earlier in the week that the Republican presidential team was causing a drag on Senate incumbents this year. Ensign said that the president’s unpopularity and the economic trouble were the main reasons for Republican electoral difficulties.

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