Democrat Mark Begich

Senate
Mark Begich

Birthdate: March 31, 1962
Birth Place: Anchorage, AK, United States
Residence: Anchorage, AK
First Elected: 2008
Gender: Male

Candidacy

Party: Democratic
State: Alaska
Office: Senate

Education

Mark Begich was born in Anchorage, Alaska, where he currently resides. He graduated from high school in 1980. Instead of going to college, he joined the family business, managing a 32-unit apartment complex.

Begich ultimately followed his father into Alaska's congressional delegation. Nick Begich was the U.S. House member for Alaska when he disappeared on a flight from Anchorage to Juneau in 1972.

Mark Begich was elected to the Anchorage Assembly at the age of 26 and served for 10 years.

He was elected Anchorage mayor in 2003 and re-elected three years later.

He defeated the longest-serving Republican in the U.S. Senate, Ted Stevens, in 2008.

Begich and his wife, Deborah Bonito, have a son.

Profile

Since his election in 2008, Mark Begich has risen in the ranks of the Senate's Democratic leadership. He has been a staunch supporter of the 2010 health care reform law and the 2009 approximately $800 billion stimulus package.

But he's also worked across party lines, including with the Republican members of Alaska's delegation, applauding progress toward drilling in the Arctic and pushing for more oil and gas development, including drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Begich made headlines in February 2009 when defending volcano monitoring after Republican Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal cited that as another example of pork in that year's federal economic stimulus package.

Volcano monitoring became a political issue when Jindal gave the Republican response to President Barack Obama's message to Congress on the stimulus package. Jindal said the package was "larded with wasteful spending," including $140 million for volcano monitoring.

Begich, the newly elected Democrat, wrote Jindal and said volcano monitoring is a matter of life and death in his state. He made the point again after Mount Redoubt, about 100 miles southwest of Anchorage, began erupting and spewing ash less than a month later, dumping a fine, gritty clay-like substance on Anchorage and other communities, and disrupting air service throughout the state.

Begich then joined the state's senior senator, Republican Lisa Murkowski, in April 2009 when introducing a bill that would establish a national volcano early warning and monitoring system.

Begich was mayor of Anchorage when he defeated U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens, the longest-serving Republican in Senate history. The election was held just days after Stevens, a beloved figure in Alaska, was convicted of seven felonies for lying on Senate disclosure forms. Begich won by nearly 4,000 votes.

In April 2009, when the Justice Department filed a motion seeking to dismiss the conviction because of prosecutorial misconduct, Begich again found himself fending off the Republican.

The Alaska Republican Party and former Gov. Sarah Palin called on Begich to resign the seat so a special election could be held. Begich rejected the call.

Begich considers himself a Democrat, even though he is bullish on gun rights, wants to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas drilling and believes less government is better. He's described that as being an Alaska Democrat.

Begich's personal life has been marked by a tragedy.

His father, Nick Begich, who was Alaska's only congressman in 1972, was killed when his plane disappeared over the Gulf of Alaska with then-House Majority Leader Hale Boggs of Louisiana.

Begich, who was only 10 when his father died, decided not to attend college and went straight to work running his family's business.

The political bug bit Begich at age 26 when he was elected to the Anchorage Assembly. He served 10 years before he was elected mayor in 2003, erasing a $33 million deficit during his time in office. He was re-elected in 2006.

Source: Associated Press

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