WASHINGTON – Ted Stevens has yielded the floor for the last time. Staff members wept openly in the gallery Thursday as the longest-serving Republican in U.S. Senate history gave his swansong goodbye.
"I have had a difficult time today articulating my feelings and I hope if I puddle up, as an old friend used to say, I'll be excused," Stevens, who turned 85 earlier this week, said in a very emotional farewell.
The Alaska senator, found guilty in federal court on seven felony charges of lying about gifts on his disclosure form, declared he has no "rear-view mirror" and is looking forward to a day when he might be vindicated in an appeal.
He lost his bid for a seventh term in a very tight Nov. 4 election. On Tuesday, Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich, a Democrat, was declared the winner.
In Thursday's speech, Stevens, who has served since the days of the Johnson administration, reminisced about how Alaska was a new state when he first came to Washington.
"Many people doubted whether Alaska had what it took to be a successful state," he said, noting how he helped the state establish itself with a strong economy. "Alaskans took control of our own destiny."
During Stevens' speech, his colleagues came to the Senate floor, mostly Republicans but also a few Democrats. People on the floor and in the galleries gave a standing ovation — and no senator objected.