Alaska: Begich Formally in Race, Touts His Independence

Posted April 21, 2008 at 6:44pm

Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich (D) officially entered the Senate race Monday, a not-so-surprising move that came about a month after forming an exploratory committee.

Begich, heavily recruited by national Democrats, is the first Democrat in decades expected to give Sen. Ted Stevens (R) a real electoral challenge.

In his announcement speech, Begich attempted to project himself as an independent politician with Alaska’s best interests in mind. He mentioned specific policy proposals, such as his support for drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and joining Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) in his effort to expand the GI Bill.

“You’ve heard me talk about independence … and here’s what I mean by that,” Begich said in his prepared remarks. “I’m proud to be a Democrat, but I’m an Alaska Democrat. I’m not afraid to disagree with the national Democrats on issues like ANWR and gun rights, because on those issues, they’re wrong.”

Stevens has represented Alaska for 40 years, making him the longest-serving Republican in the Senate. However, ethical problems — including a widely publicized FBI raid of his home — have clouded his chances of skating to a seventh term.

“Alaska has a small population and is a long way from Washington,” Stevens said in a statement. “Seniority and experience have never meant more than they do today. I believe that I am best able to provide the leadership, and I believe that Alaskans know that.”

— Shira Toeplitz