At a press conference held outside his home at 10:30 A.M. Alaska time on February 27th, 2008, Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich (pictured at left) took a big step towards a formal U.S. Senate candidacy by announcing his intention to form an official exploratory committee. Anchorage Daily News story HERE. KTUU Channel 2 story HERE. Full Begich statement posted on ADN's Alaska Politics blog. Also picked up by Thehill.com. No official reaction from any other candidates as of post time.
Update#2: On April 21st, Mark Begich upgraded it to a formal candidacy.
Update #1: Senator Ted Stevens released the following statement late this afternoon:
“Alaska is a small state which is a long way from Washington. We need a Senator who knows Alaska and Washington and who has the experience and clout to be able to protect our state from day one. We need a senator who will stand up for Alaska and fight for what is best for our state. I believe I have a strong record of listening to Alaskans and working to do what Alaskans want.
Mayor Begich has told me he is exploring whether he wants to serve Alaska in the Senate. I know he faces a very difficult choice that may require him to disrupt his family, to leave a job he enjoys and to work for a job which would require him to be out of Alaska for months at a time. I understand it is a tough decision for him. Regardless of who my opponents may be I look forward to a campaign focused on Alaska, the issues we face as a state and who can best represent us in Washington.”
Forming an exploratory committee permits Begich to begin raising money, which he'll use to travel the state and talk with different Alaskans in order to find out their concerns and build name recognition, while complying with federal election law. Begich's name recognition is much stronger in South Central Alaska and in Juneau than it is elsewhere. Another of Begich's objectives is to find out whether running for the U.S. Senate is the best way to express himself politically and to respond to Alaska's political needs, which means he technically hasn't ruled out running for Congressman Don Young's House seat. But with three "name" Democrats already in the race against Young, it is quite unlikely that Begich would enter that race.
Begich believes we need a U.S. Senator who will respond with new ideas in a rapidly-changing world and who has the requisite energy and vision to follow through. He pledges to seek input from a wide variety of individuals. Begich also stated he would make a final decision before the June 1st filing deadline. A Daily Kos poll taken back in December 2007 indicated that if the election were held at that time, Mark Begich would have defeated Ted Stevens 47 percent to 41 percent.
Mark Begich has launched a new Senate campaign website HERE. The Republicans, not wanting to be caught napping, have a launched an "anti" website, begichbaggage.com, which is just a shell at the moment, but which is likely to become fully operational within a short time. However, the Democrats have had their own "anti-Stevens" site, Retireted.com, since October 2007. A list of some individual contributors to Mark Begich's previous campaigns can be found HERE
The Alaska Division of Elections maintains a list of candidates, but it is not current. Here's the most current list of declared candidates already in the U.S. Senate race:
- Ray Metcalfe, Democrat: Campaign website HERE; campaign blog HERE.
- Frank Vondersaar, Democrat: Current campaign website HERE. Holdover websites from previous campaigns HERE and HERE.
- Ted Stevens, Republican: Official U.S. Senate website HERE.
- Gerald Heikes, Republican: Campaign website HERE.
- Dave Cuddy, Republican: Introductory website HERE.
- Richard Wanda, Republican: No known website.
- Ted Gianoutsos, Veterans Party: Campaign website HERE.
Democrat Rocky Caldero of Unalaska withdrew from the race earlier after taking a job down in Washington state.
We can expect Ray Metcalfe to start turning up the heat on Mark Begich pursuant to this development. Back in August 2007, Metcalfe was questioning a land deal in Midtown Anchorage orchestrated by Begich which permitted developers to double their profits in a one-year period after the parcel was re-zoned from residential to commercial. Begich deflected the criticism at the time, but Metcalfe doesn't let go easily, as Ben Stevens found out.