Yesterday, Republican candidate Nick Begich called into the Dan Fagan show to discuss his congressional campaign. During the interview, Fagan confronted and asked Begich why he had voted for Ethan Berkowitz, a Democrat, over conservative Amy Demboski in the 2015 Anchorage mayoral election. Begich responded by saying it was a “bad vote” and that he was just a “bystander.” He went on to blame his vote for Berkowitz on the media for their coverage of the election.
Begich, who filed to run against the late Don Young before he passed away, has worked hard to burnish his conservative bona fides. Begich positioned himself to the right of Young, frequently excoriating the late congressman for being too moderate. Begich has gained the support of Suzanne Downing, owner of the far-right Must Read Alaska website, who has propped up Begich’s campaign while relentlessly attacking his opponents.
Since Young passed away, four more prominent Republicans – Senator Josh Revak (R – Anchorage), former Governor Sarah Palin, former Senator John Coghill, and former Assistant Interior Secretary Tara Sweeney – have entered the race, making competition for conservative votes highly competitive. Begich secured the endorsement of the Alaska Republican Party last week at their convention in Fairbanks. A motion later at the convention to endorse the other four Republican candidates failed.
Begich, whose uncles are Mark and Tom Begich, also told Fagan yesterday that he was not involved in politics at the time of his vote for Berkowitz. But just nine months after the 2015 mayoral runoff election, Begich filed to run for the Anchorage Assembly against Amy Demboski. Begich’s 2016 campaign disclosure reveals an interesting list of contributors that includes several prominent Alaska Democrats, progressives, and labor unions. Here is a list:
- Mark Begich, former Anchorage mayor and former U.S. Senator, donated $500
- Deborah Bonito, business owner and wife of Mark Begich, donated $500
- Tom Begich, current Democratic State Senator elected in 2016, donated $200
- Walter Featherly, well-known Anchorage attorney who briefly ran for State House in 2014 before withdrawing, donated $500
- Chris Tuck, current Democratic State Representative elected in 2008, donated $500
- Jim Lottsfeldt, well-known lobbyist and owner of the Midnight Sun political news website, donated $500
- John Weddleton, business owner who was elected to the Anchorage Assembly in 2016, donated $150
- Chris Constant, activist who was elected to the Anchorage Assembly in 2017, donated $25
- Felix Rivera, activist who was elected to the Anchorage Assembly in 2017, donated $20
- Andy Holleman, former Alaska Education Association president and current Anchorage School Board member in 2017, donated $200
- Patti Higgins, former Alaska Democratic Party chair and State House candidate, donated $25
- Ivan Moore, owner of Alaska Survey Research, donated $100
- Leslie Ridle, former Governor Tony Knowles staffer who served as Administration Commissioner under former Governor Bill Walker, donated $75
- Schawna Thoma, former Senator Mark Begich staffer who now who works with him at his company Northern Compass Group, donated $100
- Janice Park, former State House and State Senate candidate, donated $40
- Robert Gottsetin, business owner, donated $500
- Roselynn Cacy, former State Senate candidate, donated $40
- Anchorage Police Department Employees Union donated $1,000
- NEA Alaska donated $1,000
- IBEW local 1547 PAC donated $1,000
- Teamsters donated $1,000
The Landmine contacted several donors regarding their 2016 contributions, and to ask whether they would donate now. Most did not want to go on record. But Mark and Tom Begich, Nick Begich’s uncles, did comment.
Mark Begich, who served on the Anchorage Assembly and as mayor, told the Landmine, “I have supported Republicans and Democrats for Assembly because it is nonpartisan, though some try and make it partisan. The Assembly is about pot holes, education, and crime. It’s about making the community a better and place.”
Senator Tom Begich (D – Anchorage) had a bit more to say. “My nephew was running in a race at the time against Amy Demboski, who I believed was harmful to the interests of Anchorage, and she’s borne that out serving as municipal manager. So Nick’s judgement – while I don’t always agree with it – was sound in that race.” He added, “It was one of those occasions where I found myself aligned with Randy Ruedrich in supporting my nephew’s bid against Demboski.”
Ruedrich, along with other well-known Republican donors, also donated to Nick Begich in 2016.
When asked whether he would donate to Nick Begich’s congressional campaign, Tom Begich plainly responded, “Why would I do that? He’s a conservative Republican,” and added, “My nephew has never donated to any of my campaigns, which is disappointing.”
Nick Begich’s campaign did not respond for comment.