Begich prepares for life as a U.S. senator

Democrat wants spot in appropriations or commerce committees

Posted: Monday, November 24, 2008

FAIRBANKS - Sen.-elect Mark Begich is looking ahead and hoping to land some nice committee assignments in the U.S. Senate when they are handed out in the coming weeks.

The newly elected Democrat said his requests include assignments to the appropriations or commerce committees. Those are the two committees that Sen. Ted Stevens had been chairman of during the last decade.

Begich said he's also expressed an interest in the finance and veterans' committees, which he said oversee areas of particular interest to Alaska.

Begich said he spoke to Sen. Harry Reid last week, and that the senate majority leader was receptive to his requests.

"He was very positive about some of the issues I need to address," Begich said.

Begich also discussed appointments last week with Alaska's new senior senator, Lisa Murkowski. They agreed that Begich would try to avoid her committees, primarily the energy committee and health, education, labor and pensions committee, so Alaska is represented in numerous areas.

"We want to make sure we spread the load so we don't just concentrate on those areas," Begich said.

Begich said his other priority is making a pair of transitions departing as Anchorage mayor, while adjusting to his new role as a U.S. senator.

His victory against Stevens was delayed until Tuesday, when the bulk of absentee ballots put his lead out of reach, so Begich missed an orientation session for freshman senators.

Begich said steady contact with Reid and Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., are helping to ease that transition, despite his late arrival. He also expects a delayed training session will take place in early December.

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