Mark Begich is running for re-election for the U.S. Senate. As Angela Denning reports, he was in Petersburg this month addressing Southeast Alaska issues.
Politicians descended on Petersburg for the Alaska Native Brotherhood Alaska Native Sisterhood Grandcamp convention earlier this month. They included Governor Sean Parnell, Lt. Governor candidate Byron Mallot, District 35 candidates, Steven Samuelson and Jonathon Kreiss-Thompkins . We’ve heard from all of them in the news already. Also addressing the ANB-ANS delegates in Petersburg was Mark Begich.
Begich has been endorsed by the Alaska Federation of Natives and the Central Council Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska and at the Petersburg convention, he was endorsed by ANB-ANS.
From the podium, Begich ran through his committees: Appropriations Committee, the Indian Affairs Committee, the Homeland and Government Services Committee, the Commerce Committee, the Coast Guard Committee and the Veterans Committee.
He highlighted that he is part of the rare situation of having both Alaska Senators–himself and Senator Murkowski–on the Appropriations Committee:
“Just to give you a sense of how important that is in Southeast here, $27 million dollars for the Coast Guard dock that’s being developed in Ketchikan and two new Coast Guard Cutters that will be stationed there,” Begich said. “$100 million for rural ports and harbors. $67 million annual for our marine highway system.”
Begich also spoke at length on the benefits of being on the veterans committee. He said in the six years he’s been in office they have succeeded in bringing better access to health care for Alaska veterans. Veterans living in remote communities used to have to travel to Alaska hubs to get seen by providers.
“End result today, with over 30 different tribal clinics around the state, hospitals included, our health care is delivered to veterans Native and non-Native,” Begich said. “For example in Barrow or in Nome, 800 veterans now can go to that beautiful new hospital there if they want to get health care or still fly to Seattle or Anchorage but they can go right down the street. Here in Southeast, they can go to SEARCH, get health care, and the VA will reimburse them. That is something I committed to, now has happened.”
Begich says he supports nearly all mining in Alaska but not the proposed Pebble Mine. He said he’s heard from thousands of Alaskans who are against it. He also said the U.S. needs to work closely on the transboundary mines happening in British Columbia.
“I understand Canada as a sovereign country and can do their own mining but we are downstream,” Begich said. “We have to have a unique relationship in how to manage our mines on our side but more importantly on their side where they impact our streams. And when I think of Southeast: Niblack, Bokan, Kensington, Greens Creek, all mines that I’ve worked on and helped in some way or another and all doing a great job. But we need to do what we can and look at mines individually.”
Begich questioned his opponent’s stance on subsistence and wanted to make it clear that he supported subsistence rights and a rural subsistence priority.
“When people say they support subsistence and they follow it by saying “the lifestyle”, “the culture”, those are buzz words for they really don’t,” Begich said. “The question is, ‘Do you support subsistence rights’? Rights that are your rights. It is not a culture….it is culture but it is not by itself a culture, it is a right that you inherent in you, it is not a right that is negotiated. It is your right to survive, to hunt and fish on the lands that are your lands.”
Begich is running for re-election in the U.S. Senate as a Democrat.
The general election is Tuesday, November 4th.