Sen. Stevens: I'm innocent and not convicted

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(CNN) -- Despite his felony conviction this week for filing false U.S. Senate financial disclosure forms, Republican Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska insisted he was innocent and vowed not to step down.

"I have not been convicted of anything," he maintained during a Thursday night debate in Anchorage, only days before Tuesday's election.

The debate, sponsored by Alaska Public Television, pitted Stevens, who is seeking re-election, against his opponent, Democratic Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich, in a tight race.

"I'm not going to step down. I have not been convicted. I have a case pending against me, and probably the worse case of prosecutorial ... misconduct by the prosecutors that is known," Stevens said.

"I think you will find out, I will succeed and I'll be found innocent."

Stevens, who has been in the Senate since 1968, is seeking a seventh full term. He is the longest-serving Republican in that body.

"The case is still pending on the basis of motions we filed for a new trial or a dismissal of the case because of prosecutorial misconduct," he said when asked about calls for his resignation from some key Republicans.

They include GOP presidential nominee John McCain and his running mate, Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

"I would tell them [McCain and Palin] I understand that they make statements during the heat of a campaign, and probably they've been a little misinformed by their staff.

"But I wouldn't hold it against them. I understand what they are doing. They are trying to get elected," Stevens, 84, told the panel of journalists before a live audience.

Asked if he were accusing his Republican critics of just saying what's convenient to win elections, Stevens said, "I think to a great extent they are."

When asked if he still can be effective, he replied, "I think I'll be effective. Effectiveness is a matter of experience."

A federal jury in the District of Columbia on Monday found Stevens guilty of seven counts of failing to report about $250,000 in gifts and renovations to his home in Girdwood, Alaska, between 1999 and 2006, mostly paid for by the senator's friend, Bill Allen, chief executive of the oil-services company Veco Corp. The company has since been sold.

Senators are required to fill out forms each year stating what gifts they and their families have received -- over a certain amount -- and from whom.

Stevens predicted that his fellow senators would not expel him, which would take a two-thirds majority.