Begich scopes possible challenge in senate race

Posted: Sunday, March 16, 2008

FAIRBANKS - Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich made a stop in Fairbanks as part of a trip to scope out a possible run against U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens.

The Democrat appeared on KFAR radio on Friday. He also visited the Fairbanks News-Miner newspaper, ate lunch with other Democrats, and attended a St. Patrick's Day party.

The mayor also met with officials at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and Doyon before going to a reception and fundraiser at the Well Street Art Company.

Begich, 45, received a warm welcome from fellow Democrats, where a luncheon at the Westmark Fairbanks Hotel also attracted a few Republicans. About 60 people in all were there.

"Fairbanks is a very important part of our campaign strategy if I get in," Begich said.

Begich promised a more cooperative approach to lawmaking, compared with Stevens, who is known for the occasional temperamental outburst.

Begich talked mostly about the need for change and for a better vision for the future. His speech touched on the issues of poverty, drug addiction and environmental conservation.

"It doesn't make sense," Begich said. "We are the richest country in the world, and we have an inability to figure out what I call the big picture."

Begich figures he needs $5 million to mount a campaign against Stevens, 84, the longest serving senator in the history of the Republican Party. Stevens has belonged to the Senate for 40 years. He is being investigated as part of a federal corruption probe.

Jerry Timmons, a Republican and owner of two car washes, said he had never seen Begich speak and curiosity drew him to the Democratic luncheon.

"I am looking at all of the alternatives," Timmons said. "I am anxiously going to be watching as the next few months unfold."

Attorney Barry Jackson announced at the luncheon that he was endorsing Begich, even though Jackson served with Stevens in the Alaska Legislature in the 1960s and Stevens is the godfather of Jackson's son.

"The reason is that we need to be looking to the future," said Jackson, a Democrat.

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