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Mark Begich

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Collection: 1962 Births, Alaska Democrats, American People of Bohemian Descent, American People of Croatian Descent, American People of Czech Descent, American People of Dutch Descent, American People of English Descent, American People of Polish Descent, Borough Assembly Members in Alaska, Businesspeople from Alaska, Democratic Party United States Senators, Living People, Mayors of Anchorage, Alaska, United States Senators from Alaska, University of Alaska Anchorage Alumni, University of Alaska Regents
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Mark Begich

Mark Begich
United States Senator
from Alaska
In office
January 3, 2009 – January 3, 2015
Preceded by Ted Stevens
Succeeded by Dan Sullivan
Mayor of Anchorage
In office
July 1, 2003 – January 3, 2009
Preceded by George Wuerch
Succeeded by Matt Claman
Member of the Anchorage Assembly
In office
October 1988 – April 1998
Preceded by Brad Bradley
Succeeded by Melinda Taylor
Personal details
Born Mark Peter Begich
(1962-03-30) March 30, 1962
Anchorage, Alaska, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Deborah Bonito
Children Jacob
Alma mater none
Religion Roman Catholicism
Website Senate website

Mark Peter Begich[1] (; born March 30, 1962) is an American politician who was a United States Senator from Alaska from 2009 to 2015. A member of the Democratic Party, he was Mayor of Anchorage from 2003 to 2009.

Born in Anchorage, Begich is the son of former U.S. Representative Nick Begich Sr.. He was elected to the Anchorage Assembly at the age of 26. He eventually served as chairman for three years, before leaving the Assembly in 1998. Begich ran two unsuccessful campaigns for mayor in 1994 and 2000 before being elected in 2003. In the 2008 Senate election, Begich narrowly defeated incumbent Ted Stevens, the longest-serving Republican member of the Senate of all time.[2]

In 2014, Begich was defeated in his bid for reelection by former Alaska Attorney General Dan Sullivan.[3][4][5][6] Following completion of his term in the U.S. Senate, he became a policy advisor on Native American affairs in the Washington, D.C.-based law firm of Sonosky, Chambers, Sachse, Endreson & Perry LLP.[7]


  • Early life, education and early political career 1
  • Mayor of Anchorage 2
  • U.S. Senate 3
    • Elections 3.1
      • 2008 3.1.1
      • 2014 3.1.2
    • Tenure 3.2
    • Legislation 3.3
      • 111th Congress (2009–2010) 3.3.1
      • 112th Congress (2011–2012) 3.3.2
      • 113th Congress (2013–2014) 3.3.3
    • Committee assignments 3.4
    • Caucus memberships 3.5
  • Policy positions 4
    • Abortion 4.1
    • Cannabis 4.2
    • Capital punishment 4.3
    • Domestic security 4.4
    • Energy 4.5
    • Environment 4.6
    • Gun rights 4.7
    • Healthcare 4.8
    • Labor 4.9
    • Same-sex marriage 4.10
    • Veterans' affairs 4.11
  • Personal life 5
  • Electoral history 6
    • Anchorage Assembly 6.1
    • Anchorage Mayor 6.2
    • U.S. Senate 6.3
  • References 7
  • Further reading 8
  • External links 9

Early life, education and early political career

Begich was born and raised in Anchorage, Alaska.[8] He is the son of Margaret Jean "Pegge" (née Jendro) and former U.S. Representative Nick Begich. His father disappeared in October 1972 during a flight from Anchorage to Juneau, Alaska with then U.S. House Majority Leader Hale Boggs, but was reelected the next month, while missing, before both were declared legally dead.[9]

The fourth of six children, he has two sisters and three brothers. His paternal grandparents were Croatian; his paternal grandfather John Begich immigrated to the United States from Croatia (then part of the empire of Austria-Hungary) in 1911.[10] His mother had Polish, Bohemian (Czech), Dutch, and English ancestry.[11] He attended Steller Secondary School in Anchorage. As an adolescent, he opened an 18-and-under club called "The Motherlode." At 18, he had obtained a business license to sell jewelry and was helping his mother manage a number of real estate properties. Because of his business opportunities, he decided not to go to college.[12]

His mother twice ran to fill her late-husband's Congressional seat in the 1980s, losing to current Representative Don Young both times.[13]

During the 1988 legislative session, Begich worked as a legislative aide for State Representative Dave Donley. At 19, he started working in the Anchorage city health department and later worked as a driver for then-Anchorage Mayor Tony Knowles.[12] Begich was elected to the Anchorage Assembly in 1988, at age 26, and served until 1998, including three years as chairman and two as vice chairman.[12]

Begich served for a number of years on the Alaska Commission on Postsecondary Education, including as its chair.[14] In 2001, Governor Tony Knowles appointed Begich to the University of Alaska Board of Regents, but the legislature did not confirm the appointment.[15]

Mayor of Anchorage

Begich as mayor of Anchorage

He ran unsuccessfully for mayor in 1994 against runoff election from 50 to 45 percent. He was re-elected in April 2006, winning against local advertising and radio personality Jack Frost. Though the office is officially nonpartisan, Begich was the first Democrat to be elected Mayor of the Municipality of Anchorage since Tony Knowles.[12]

Begich was a member of the pro-gun control group Mayors Against Illegal Guns.[16] Begich left the group in 2007.[17]

U.S. Senate



Begich campaigning at Pioneer Park in Fairbanks in September 2008.

On February 27, 2008, Begich announced that he was forming an exploratory committee to run for the United States Senate.[18] After winning the Democratic nomination, he went on to face Republican incumbent Ted Stevens in the general election. Begich was ahead in polls prior to the election. During the campaign, Stevens faced a multiple count indictment on ethics and corruption charges.[19][20][21]

On October 27, 2008, eight days before the general election, Stevens was found guilty by a Washington D.C. federal jury on seven felony counts.[22]

Stevens's conviction was later set aside due to prosecutorial misconduct. Attorney General Eric Holder later declined to retry him on the corruption charges.

In April 2009, Alaska Republican Party chairman, Randy Ruedrich, issued a call for Begich to resign so a special election could be held. Despite the fact that the charges had been brought by the Bush Administration, Ruedrich argued that Begich's win was illegitimate because of "improper influence from the corrupt Department of Justice." The same day Governor Sarah Palin seconded Ruedrich's call, although she later denied having said Begich should resign.[23]

Begich said he intended to serve his full six-year term.[24]

On November 18, 2008, the Associated Press called the election for Begich,[25] who was leading and likely to win by more than the 0.5% margin needed to trigger an automatic recount, with the remainder of uncounted ballots originating from the Anchorage area.[26] Stevens conceded the race the next day.[27]

Begich's victory made him Alaska's first Democratic U.S. Senator since Mike Gravel left office in 1981.[28]


Begich was up for re-election in 2014. He faced William Bryk in the Democratic primary on August 19, 2014, winning 96.7% of the vote. Candidates in the closed Republican primary included Lt. Governor Mead Treadwell, who received 25% of the vote; former Alaska Attorney General and Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Daniel S. Sullivan, who won with 40%; 2010 U.S. Senate nominee Joe Miller (32%); and John Jaramillo (3%).[29][30] Alaska's 2014 U.S. Senate race is considered one of the most competitive congressional races in the nation, with the Cook Political Report rating it a "toss-up."[31][32] In the final Rothenberg Political Report before the election, the Report considered the race a “Toss-up/Tilt Republican.”[33]

In August 2014, shortly before the Senate primary, Lisa Murkowski, who serves alongside Begich in the U.S. Senate, objected to Begich's use of her image in a campaign advertisement titled "Great Team." Murkowski's law firm sent a cease-and-desist letter, calling the advertisement "factually incorrect." According to Politico, "Begich, running in deep-red Alaska, has sought on several occasions to highlight shared positions with Murkowski. But she is distancing herself."[34][35][36] Begich declined to pull the ad.[37]

According to the New York Times, Alaska's 2014 U.S. Senate race is "potentially pivotal" and "nationally watched." The New York Times reported that in a bid to keep his seat, "Begich will try to attract rural voters and supporters of abortion rights."[38] According to the Washington Post, Begich is campaigning on the idea of expanding Social Security benefits. According to the Washington Post, "Begich is one of a small but growing group of Democratic lawmakers who support the idea of lifting or changing the payroll tax cap, so higher earners pay more, while adopting a new measure for inflation that would increase benefits for all seniors."[39]

In August 2014, Begich pulled a campaign ad accusing opponent Dan Sullivan of allowing an alleged murderer and rapist to get off with a light sentence. That claim was proven to be false by fact checkers.[40] The ad was withdrawn from Alaska television stations following demands from the crime victim's family that the ads were both insensitive and threatened prosecution of a criminal suspect.[41][42][43]

In September 2014, Sullivan stated in an email to supporters stated that Begich cast a deciding vote in favor of President Obama's authority to issue executive amnesty to undocumented immigrants.[44]

On November 17, 2014, Begich conceded the election to Sullivan.[45]


On February 13, 2009, Begich voted to pass the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (commonly referred to as the Stimulus or The Recovery Act).[46]

In 2012, Begich introduced a bill called the Protecting and Preserving Social Security Act. The bill would have lifted the payroll tax cap, raising taxes on those who earn $110,100 or more per year. It did not pass.[47][48]

According to an analysis by Congressional Quarterly in 2013 Begich voted with President Obama 97% of the time.[49]

In March 2013, Begich cosponsored a bill that would flag individuals attempting to buy guns who have used an insanity defense, were ruled dangerous by a court, or had been committed by a court to mental health treatment. It did not address the gun show loophole. It has not been passed into law.[50][51]

Representative Don Young (R–AK) praised Begich for doing a "great job" representing Alaska.[52]


Begich sponsored 164 bills of his own, including:[53]

111th Congress (2009–2010)

  • S. 1561–1566, Begich's first bills, each introduced August 3, 2009, would address a number of issues affecting the Arctic region. S. 1561 would increase coordination among the United States, Russia, Canada, Iceland, Norway, Denmark, and other seafaring and Arctic nations with regards to navigation, monitoring of conditions, and marine pollution in Arctic waters. S. 1562 would review and make more efficient scientific research being conducted in the Arctic, and would direct the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to develop an observation, monitoring, modeling, and research plan for black carbon and other aerosols. S. 1563 would create a U.S. Ambassador At Large for Arctic Affairs. S. 1564 would increase the studying of, preparation for, and responses to oil spills that occur in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas. S. 1565 would direct the United States Arctic Research Commission to submit biennial reports to Congress detailing the strategies to deal with health needs specific to populations living in the Arctic. S. 1566 would create a grant program in the Department of Agriculture to aid individuals and organizations in the Arctic for adapting to changes in climate, and would fund research detailing the most appropriate responses to changes in Arctic climate. Begich later introduced S. 3580 and S.3584, which are similar to S. 1564. S. 1563, S. 1565, S. 3580 and S. 3584 were reintroduced in the 112th Congress as S. 1229, S. 1227, S. 203 and S. 204. S. 1563 and S. 1565 were reintroduced in the 113th Congress as S. 270 and S. 271.
  • S. 1673, a bill to increase the tax deduction for Alaska Native corporations that make donations to conservation on lands reserved for Alaska Natives, introduced September 15, 2009, reintroduced in the 113th Congress as S. 2636
  • S. 2842 and S. 2873, bills to deny the tax deduction for direct-to-consumer expenses for prescription pharmaceuticals advertisers, and to allow for a $500 tax credit for the parents of any child who participates in an organization that promotes physical activity for children, introduced December 7 and 11, 2009
  • S. 2852, a bill to support the development of renewable energy sources in the Arctic, introduced December 9, 2009, reintroduced in the 112th Congress as S. 3371, and in the 113th Congress as S. 2705
  • S. 3225, a bill to create a competitive grant program in the Department of Commerce, with grants to be awarded to entities that promote domestic regional tourism growth and new domestic tourism market creation, introduced March 19, 2010. A modified version of this bill was introduced in the 112th Congress as S. 1663.
  • S. 3704, a bill to reform the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) in order to improve the financial safety and soundness of the FHA mortgage insurance program, introduced August 4, 2010. S. 3704's companion bill was passed by the House of Representatives but has not become law.
  • S. 3820, a bill to create a competitive grant program, with grants to be awarded to educational institutions that implement and expand effective science, technology, engineering, and mathematics curricula, introduced September 29, 2010, reintroduced in the 112th Congress as S. 463
  • S. 3969 and S. 3971, bills to require genetically-engineered fish to be labeled as such, and to prohibit the commercial approval of genetically-engineered fish, introduced November 18, 2010, reintroduced in the 112th Congress as S. 229 and S. 230

112th Congress (2011–2012)

  • S. 205, a bill to require post-production oil drilled from Arctic waters to be transported by means of pipelines, to allocate 37.5% of the revenue generated from leasing rights and post-leasing activities to the Alaskan government, of which 20% is to be allocated to coastal political subdivisions, 33% to certain regional corporations, and 7% to Alaska Native Indian tribes, and to allocate 6.25% of federal royalty revenue to a land and water conservation fund and to reducing the federal government's budget deficit, introduced January 26, 2011, reintroduced in the 113th Congress as S. 199
  • S. 895, a bill to create a competitive grant program in the Department of Education to award grants to educational institutions that improve the effectiveness of teachers, strengthen the use of data to improve education, provide rigorous standards with high-standard tests aligned with those standards, turn around the lowest-performing schools, and any other thing the Secretary of Education chooses, with at least 25% of funds being allocated to rural education institutions, and to direct the Secretary of Education to create performance measures to track improvements, introduced May 5, 2011, reintroduced in the 113th Congress as S. 283
  • S. 1357, a bill to make the Roadless Area Conservation Rule inapplicable to land in Alaska included in the National Forest System, introduced July 13, 2011, reintroduced in the 113th Congress as S. 384
  • S. 1691, a bill to allow the interstate sale of firearms if the transaction is in compliance with both states' laws, and to no longer prohibit licensees from conducting business at gun shows outside of the state in which they received their license, introduced October 12, 2011
  • S. 1717, a bill to prohibit genetically-engineered salmon from being distributed or sold in interstate and foreign commerce, introduced October 17, 2011
  • S. 2180 and S. 2181, bills to create a $3,000 tax credit for early-childhood educators, to include early-childhood educators in the federal loan forgiveness programs for teachers, and to cap the allowable amount of loan forgiveness in these programs for early-childhood educators at $25,000, introduced March 8, 2012, reintroduced in the 113th Congress as S. 438 and S. 440
  • S. 2188, a bill to allow individuals with a permit to carry concealed handguns to be able to conceal their handguns in all other states in which equivalent laws exist, introduced March 12, 2012
  • S. 3262, a bill to authorize aboriginal whaling if it is used for the purpose of subsistence, is accomplished in an efficient manner, and does not include the hunting of any whale accompanied by a calf, introduced July 5, 2012
  • S. 3451, a bill to exempt certain air taxi services from an excise tax imposed on air transportation, introduced July 26, 2012

113th Congress (2013–2014)

  • S. 282, a bill to award competitive grants to states that implement post-secondary education planning and career guidance programs for students, introduced February 12, 2013
  • S. 287, a bill to expand veterans' benefits for homeless veterans, introduced February 12, 2013
  • S. 428, a bill to allow the Army to plan, survey, design, construct, maintain, or operate Arctic deepwater ports in cooperation with developers (which the bill defines), introduced February 28, 2013
  • S. 896, a bill to eliminate the Federal Insurance Contributions Act tax's cap on taxable income, introduced May 8, 2013
  • S. 1325, a bill to expand the small business tax credit for health insurance, introduced July 18, 2013. A modified version of this bill was later introduced as S. 2069.
  • S. 1327, a bill to allow employers to enroll their employees in a health plan in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program if fewer than two plans are offered in the Small Business Health Options Program and no multi-state plans are available, introduced July 18, 2013
  • S. 1729, a bill to create a new "copper" tier of health plans below current "bronze" level plans offered in the PPACA's insurance exchanges, introduced November 19, 2013
  • S. 2059, a bill to expand the Nonbusiness Energy Property Tax Credit from a lifetime credit of $1,500 to $5,000 in a single taxable year, introduced February 27, 2014
  • S. 2241, a bill to create harsher penalties for individuals who distribute or manufacture drugs in or near schools, recreational areas, swimming pools, and game arcades, introduced April 10, 2014
  • S. 2258, a bill to bind the cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for veterans' disability compensation to the COLA for disability benefits in the Social Security program, introduced April 28, 2014, signed into law September 26, 2014
  • S. 2399, a bill to make valid for voting any ID card issued by an Indian Tribe or Native Corporation, and to place restrictions on the elimination, moving, and consolidation of polling locations in Indian reservations, introduced May 22, 2014
  • S. 2957, a bill to prohibit Super PACs from making robocalls to individuals who have listed their phone number in the National Do Not Call Registry, introduced November 25, 2014

Committee assignments

Begich, along with Bill Huizenga and Ron Wyden, visiting military personnel at Kandahar Airfield in January 2012.

Caucus memberships

Policy positions


Begich is NRLC.[55][56][57][58]


Begich stated that he has concerns but will defend Ballot Measure 2 (Alaska Marijuana Legalization).[59]

Capital punishment

Begich stated that he generally opposes the death penalty.[60]

Domestic security

Begich wants to repeal the Patriot Act and opposes 'allowing the government to conduct surveillance wiretaps without warrants.'[60]


In 2008, Begich supported the creation of a national cap-and-trade system for controlling greenhouse gas emissions.[61] In 2010, he signed a letter advocating the establishment of a 'price' for greenhouse gas emissions as part of national energy policy. Begich has stated that this should not be interpreted as support for a carbon tax.[62]

Begich supports drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.[63][64][65]


Begich believes that human activity is a major factor contributing to climate change.[59]

Gun rights

Begich has a 79% rating with the National Rifle Association.[66]


Begich voted in favor of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (most commonly known as Obamacare) when the Bill first passed Congress.[67] Begich has not said whether or not he would vote for the Bill again.[68]


Begich supports raising the minimum wage and extending unemployment benefits beyond 26 weeks.[59]

Same-sex marriage

Begich supports same-sex marriage.[69]

Veterans' affairs

On April 28, 2014, Begich introduced the Veterans' Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act of 2014 (S. 2258; 113th Congress), a bill that would, beginning on December 1, 2014, increase the rates of veterans' disability compensation, additional compensation for dependents, the clothing allowance for certain disabled veterans, and dependency and indemnity compensation for surviving spouses and children.[70][71]

Personal life

Begich is married to Deborah Bonito, a former chair of the Alaska Democratic Party and the current owner of several small businesses throughout Anchorage. They have a son, Jacob.[72]

During his term in the Senate, Begich was the only U.S. Senator without a college degree.[72][12] He has taken continuing education classes at University of Alaska Anchorage.[73]

Electoral history

Anchorage Assembly

Anchorage Assembly, Seat H 1995

  • Mark Begich, 52%
  • Steven Fowler, 40%
  • Edward Robbins, 5%

Anchorage Mayor

Anchorage Mayor, 1994[74]
Candidate Votes % ±%
Mark Begich 20.4%
Rick Mystrom 21.8%
Craig Campbell 17.4%
3 others 41.4%
Anchorage Mayor, Runoff 1994[75]
Candidate Votes % ±%
Mark Begich 42.0%
Rick Mystrom 58.0%
Anchorage Mayor, 2000
Candidate Votes % ±%
Mark Begich 40%
George Wuerch 20%
Jack Frost 18%
Bob Bell 10%
Dave Donley 4%
Pete Kott 4%
Theresa Obermeyer 2%
3 others 2%
Anchorage Mayor, Runoff 2000
Candidate Votes % ±%
Mark Begich 47%
George Wuerch 52%
Anchorage Mayor, 2003
Candidate Votes % ±%
Mark Begich 45%
George Wuerch 37%
Rick Mystrom 15%
David Dunsmore 1%
7 others 2%
Anchorage Mayor, 2006
Regular election, April 4, 2006
Candidate Votes % ±%
Mark Begich 39,468 55.95%
Jack Frost 28,760 40.77%
Nick Moe 1,747 2.48%
Thomas Mark Higgins 431 0.61%
Write-in votes 135 0.88%
Turnout 70,541 35.18%

U.S. Senate

2008 Alaska U.S. Senate Democratic primary election
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Democratic Mark Begich 63,747 90.6
Democratic Ray Metcalfe 5,480 7.8
Democratic Frank Vondersaar 965 1.4
Turnout 70,192
2008 U.S. Senate election, Alaska[76]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Democratic Mark Begich 151,767 47.77 +37.26
Republican Ted Stevens 147,814 46.52 -31.65
Alaskan Independence Bob Bird 13,197 4.15 +1.22
Libertarian David Haase 2,483 0.78 -0.25
Independent Ted Gianoutsos 1,385 0.44
Write-In 1,077 0.34 +0.21
Majority 3,953 1.25 -66.41
Turnout 317,723


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  70. ^ "S. 2258 – Summary". United States Congress. Retrieved 12 September 2014. 
  71. ^ Cox, Ramsey (11 September 2014). "Senate passes increase in veterans disability benefits". The Hill. Retrieved 12 September 2014. 
  72. ^ a b Reske, Henry J. (March 5, 2009). "10 Things You Didn't Know About Mark Begich". U.S. News and World Report. 
  73. ^ White, Deborah. "Profile of Mayor Mark Begich, '08 Senate Candidate from Alaska".
  74. ^ Blumberg, Peter. (1994-04-21). "Campaign 94 mayor: Let's shake hands before round 2 – 37,850 votes up for grabs." Anchorage Daily News. Retrieved at (subscription required) on 2007-04-04.
  75. ^ Blumberg, Peter. (1994-05-18). "Mystrom new mayor." Anchorage Daily News. Retrieved at (subscription required) on 2007-04-04.
  76. ^ "Official Election Results". Alaska Division of Elections. November 4, 2008. Retrieved 2008-12-10. 

Further reading

External links

  • Mark Begich at DMOZ
Political offices
Preceded by
George Wuerch
Mayor of Anchorage
Succeeded by
Matt Claman
Party political offices
Preceded by
Frank Vondersaar
Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator from Alaska
(Class 2)

2008, 2014
Most recent
Preceded by
Debbie Stabenow
Chairperson of the Senate Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee
Succeeded by
Amy Klobuchar
United States Senate
Preceded by
Ted Stevens
U.S. Senator (Class 2) from Alaska
Served alongside: Lisa Murkowski
Succeeded by
Dan Sullivan
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