SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


Begich Announces Candidacy for U.S. Senate


April 21, 2008

Saying he has heard the call from Alaskans who want him to go to Washington, DC to fight for Alaska, Mark Begich announced today that he is running for the U.S. Senate. Nearly eight weeks after forming an exploratory committee that allowed him to travel the state hearing the concerns of Alaskans, Begich said the message was Alaska is facing real challenges and it's time for a change.

"I had the chance to talk one-on-one with people in communities all across this state ­ Bethel, Kotzebue, Sitka, Kenai, Fairbanks, Juneau, Soldotna, and the Mat-Su," Begich said. "I wanted to hear how Alaskans are doing, what they're concerned about, and I wanted to know if they thought it was time for a change in Washington, DC. And you know what their answer was? Yes!"

Begich made the announcement at a noon gathering at the Mountain View Community Center. Joined by his wife, Deborah, his young son, Jacob, his mother Pegge, and a number of extended family members, Begich said Alaska is an independent state, with jobs and a strong economy, but there is much work to do for all Alaskans.

"It's costing more and more to fuel our cars, heat our homes, and feed our families. And that means it's getting harder and harder to pay for health care, save for college, plan for retirement or even just pay the rent or the mortgage."

Begich, 46, was first elected Mayor of Anchorage in April 2003. He was re-elected in 2006 by one of the largest margins in the city's history. He pointed to some of the successes of the city under his administration including filling a $33 million budget gap he inherited when first elected, working with the voters to pass bonds to support neglected public facilities, build roads, improve libraries and parks and improving public safety.

"The first thing we did was restore their trust," Begich said. "We eliminated the deficit by cutting waste, consolidating and privatizing services, and investing in what matters most ­ more police, more fire fighters, more fire stations, better roads and improving our neighborhoods."

Begich pointed out that Anchorage is a major engine in Alaska's economy, with over 9,000 new jobs in the past five years, a balanced budget, property tax relief for homeowners, and a bond rating that is in the top five percent in the country. With tens of millions of dollars in private investment, and hundreds of millions in new investment approved by voters, Begich said voters trust their city government again.

"Government has to get the basics done right. That's a lesson they should learn in Washington."

Begich told the dozens of supporters gathered for the announcement that he respects the work Ted Stevens has done for the last 40 years and respects Stevens' service in World War II. But Alaska was a much younger state when Stevens went to Washington in 1968, and the country and Alaskans have different needs today.

Begich said Alaska needs a senator as independent as Alaska. Someone who doesn't answer to special interests, someone committed to transparent government who keeps everything out in the open and always puts Alaska first.

"More than ever before, at a time of great national turmoil, we need creative solutions. But most importantly, we need Alaskan solutions rather than six more years of the same."

Begich said he's proud to be a Democrat, but he's an Alaska Democrat. He said he's not afraid to disagree with national Democrats on issues such as ANWR and guns rights, because they're wrong on those issues. Saying it's irresponsible to run up the deficit and the national debt to where they are today, Begich said he'll also disagree with Republicans, especially on their fiscal policies.

Begich detailed several specific proposals to address energy costs, health care, ethics and transparency in government, and keeping America's promises to veterans. On energy, he said Alaskans want to know why they pay more for fuel than most, when oil is being drilled and refined in Alaska. He said Alaska's senator can be doing more about it.

"First we have to think outside the box. Yes, we need to open up ANWR, and I will fight strongly for ANWR by working across party lines instead of name-calling. But Alaska holds a lot of cards in the oil game. It's time we use them for our state."

Begich said the oil companies need Alaska just as much as Alaska needs them, especially if they want to start profiting from the natural gas buried in our land.

"I think it's time we had a senator who used every ounce of his clout to push the oil companies to do what's right for Alaskans. It's something our senator should be fighting for everyday."

Begich called for an Alaska Energy Plan that includes non-renewable and renewable sources. Pointing out that he joined the mayors of the Kenai Peninsula Borough and the Mat-Su Borough in writing an Alaska Energy Plan, Begich said Alaska should be leading the nation in developing alternative sources of power to lower energy costs at home and provide a new source of income for Alaskans for generations to come. He said such a policy should be an umbrella under which a natural gas pipeline would finally get built, something Alaska's delegation has given up on.

Other initiatives Begich said he would spearhead as senator include joining military veteran and Senator Jim Webb in the effort to expand the G.I. Bill. Depending on how long they've served, veterans could get educational benefits for the full cost of a college degree anywhere, like the University of Alaska.

Begich said Alaska also needs a senator who will address the unique health care needs of Alaska, expanding medical facilities and investing in technology so people can access specialty care and experts anywhere in the state. He also called for the need to increase Medicare reimbursements so doctors in Alaska can afford to treat their elderly patients, and the need to expand Denali KidCare to include more of Alaska's children.

On education, Begich called the federal No Child Left Behind Act "a disaster" for Alaska and said he'll demand the supplemental funding the federal government promised, so all students can achieve their highest academic potential. He also said he'll work for vital pre-school funding.

Working toward a more open government, Begich said he'll work to pass the Federal Transparency Act to include financial disclosure forms detailing every dollar of income a senator and their spouse receives, and making them available on the internet. It would also include posting every meeting between an elected official and a lobbyist on the web. And he supports an independent ethics board of citizens to keep politicians in Washington honest.

"I believe the only way to restore trust in government is for government to earn it. We've seen here in Alaska the ultimate result of unfettered greed; grainy videotapes of state legislators in hotel rooms laughing at the citizens of this state. And we've seen in Washington the ultimate result of special interest and legislative indifference. Whether it's a national debt that's killing the economy, or secret deals behind closed doors that hurt Alaskans, the fact is, Alaska deserves better."

Begich recalled the memory of his father, Congressman Nick Begich who died in a plane crash 36 years ago when Mark was ten.

"It had a huge impact on our family and on this state. People ask me what would have happened if he had lived? That's how I look at life today. What can I do today for some other ten-year-old, so that 30 or 40 years from now, their life will be better? And that's why this campaign is so important. Only with your help will be successful. Together we will build a strong future for all Alaskans."

The Primary Election will be held August 26, 2008. Races to appear on the ballot are one United States Senate Seat, one United States House of Representative Seat, 10 State Senate Seats and all 40 House of Representative Seats and ballot measures. The General Election will


On the Web:

Begich campaign

Alaska Division of Elections
Unofficial Candidate List -- 2008 Primary Election


Source of News:

Begich campaign


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Stories In The News
Ketchikan, Alaska