Ted Stevens has represented Alaska in the US Senate since 1968. To put this in perspective, at the time, Alaska hadn't even been a state for 10 years yet. Stevens was appointed to the seat after Democratic Senator Bob Bartlett died and in 1970 was elected to serve out Bartlett's term with 60% of the vote. In fact, in every subsequent re-election race Stevens has managed to win at least 66% of the vote.
That is about to change.
I am pleased to introduce our second Road to 60 candidate, Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich who is giving Stevens a real run for his money this year. Polls show Begich in solid shape 4 months out, running statistically even with Stevens at worst (Rasmussen has Stevens up by 2) and up by 5 and even 7 points at best. Begich has already made this a top-tier race, certainly it's the highest tier of any of the races on our Road to 60 list, but we knew we had to get in the game in the Alaska senate race this year. Not only is Begich a great candidate but states like Alaska are exactly where we want to make Republicans spend -- hell, John McCain may actually be forced to go all the way up to Alaska to campaign to defend the state. They simply should not be losing this seat and we knew we had to be a part of sending a Democrat to the senate from Alaska.
Part of the reason for Begich's strength in the polls is, of course, thanks to Stevens' little, er, ethics problem. It's never good for a sitting senator to have his home raided by the FBI and IRS as Stevens' was last year as part of an investigation into his "ties to an Alaska energy services company, Veco, whose chief executive pleaded guilty in early May to a bribery scheme involving state lawmakers." (WaPo 7/31/07.) Veco CEO Bill Allen has even admitted that among the $400,000 in bribes he gave to legislators was labor renovating Stevens' home (more at RetireTed.com.) But the other shoe hasn't dropped and Stevens decided to run for re-election.
The more important reason we have a top tier race in Alaska, though, is that we have top tier candidate in Mark Begich. Begich, the son of Alaska's last Democratic congressman, the late Nick Begich who died in 1972 toward the end of his first term in congress, was elected Mayor of Anchorage in 2003 then again in 2006. During his tenure as mayor, Begich has strived to modernize Anchorage and under his leadership residents have approved hundreds of millions of dollars in public and private investment in the city after decades of neglect. He turned around the city's economy and has made the city safer through an increase in police on the streets and an investment in anti-gang and cyber crime initiatives. With Mark Begich at the helm, three quarters of Anchorage residents believe the city is going in the right direction.
Now, as with many red state Democrats, Mark is not conventionally "liberal." An Alaskan since birth, Begich is a "lifetime member" of the NRA and advocates for safe and responsible drilling in ANWR, but that's not to say he won't bring a much needed progressive voice to the senate. Mark considers Alaska to be ground zero for global warming and has called for an 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. He believes Alaska is uniquely equipped to be a world leader in renewable energies and will work to make that happen as senator. On Iraq, he is clear on his position that it is time for our troops to redeploy out of Iraq; on education, he would vote to repeal No Child Left Behind; in addition, Mark is a strong proponent of net neutrality and has called for more transparency in government as part of his comprehensive ethics pledge. And perhaps most important of all, Mark Begich will fight to preserve our constitutional rights.
While the Second Amendment receives much attention, Mark Begich believes that every part of the Bill of Rights must be protected with equal dedication. From warrantless wiretapping, to the assault on habeas corpus, to the pursuit of REAL ID cards and retroactive immunity for telecom companies that illegally helped the federal government spy on innocent Americans, the Bush administration has systematically infringed on Alaskans' constitutional rights. Mark Begich will fight to restore the Constitution and the government's respect for our civil liberties.
Seriously, I think of Mark Begich as this cycle's Jon Tester, so we are proud to include him on our Road To 60 list. To beat one of the longest sitting senators in US history, Begich is going to need all the resources he can get, so I hope you will contribute to his campaign at our ActBlue page. Begich already has Stevens on the run, as local blogger Phil Munger, over at Progressive Alaska tells us:
Pollsters all around the country are interested in this contest, as a Begich victory over Alaska's patron saint would be an almost seismic shift in Alaska and presumed Red State politics. This past week, two polls came out, one or the other showing each of the two in the lead - if the election were held "today." It is quite close, and Stevens is putting in more visits to tiny villages, and giving more speeches on "important" legislation he is backing, in the past month, than he usually pulls off in a good year.
So please give what you can to Begich's campaign, even if it's just $5, $10 or $20. But there's no reason to stop there, you can also vote for him in Barbara Boxer's "Choose A Challenger" contest. And for more on Begich, check out his website and follow his every move at his Twitter page. We've been waiting for Alaska to follow in the footsteps of some of its mountain state brethren down here in the lower 48 and show some signs of a trend toward Democrats. It's looking like 2008 just might be the year; let's make sure of it by electing Mark Begich to the US Senate from Alaska.