Mark Begich

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Mark Begich
Mark Begich, official portrait, 112th Congress.jpg
United States Senator
from Alaska
Assumed office
January 3, 2009
Serving with Lisa Murkowski
Preceded by Ted Stevens
Succeeded by Dan Sullivan (elect)
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 (age 52)[1]
Anchorage, Alaska, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Deborah Bonito
Children Jacob
Alma mater University of Alaska, Anchorage
Religion Roman Catholicism
Website Senate website

Mark Peter Begich[2] (/ˈbɛɡɪ/; born March 30, 1962) is the junior United States Senator from Alaska and a member of the Democratic Party. He is a former mayor of Anchorage.

Born in Anchorage, Begich is the son of former U.S. Representative Nick Begich. He was elected to the Anchorage Assembly at age 26. He eventually served as chairman for three years, before leaving the Assembly in 1988. Begich ran two unsuccessful campaigns for mayor in 1994 and 2000 before being elected in 2003. In the 2008 Senate election, Begich defeated incumbent Ted Stevens, the longest serving Republican member of the Senate of all time.[3] On November 12, 2014, the Associated Press reported that Begich was defeated by former Alaska Attorney General Dan Sullivan in the general election by about 8,000 votes--48.6 to 45.4 percent.[4][5]

Early life, education and early political career[edit]

Begich was born and raised in Anchorage, Alaska.[6] 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.[7]

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.[8] His mother had Polish, Bohemian (Czech), Dutch, and English ancestry.[9] 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.[10]

His mother twice ran to fill her late-husband's Congressional seat in the 1980's, losing to current Representative Don Young both times.[11]

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.[10] 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.[10]

Begich served for a number of years on the Alaska Commission on Postsecondary Education, including as its chair.[citation needed] In 2001, Governor Tony Knowles appointed Begich to the University of Alaska Board of Regents, but the legislature did not confirm the appointment.[12]

Mayor of Anchorage[edit]

Begich as mayor of Anchorage

He ran unsuccessfully for mayor in 1994 against Rick Mystrom, and in 2000 against then-Assemblyman George Wuerch. In the 2003 mayoral race he narrowly defeated both Mystrom and Wuerch, earning only 11 votes over the number needed to without a runoff, despite a simultaneously approved law increasing the threshold needed to avoid such a runoff election from 40 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.[10]

Begich was a member of the pro-gun control group Mayors Against Illegal Guns.[13] Begich left the group in 2007.[14]

U.S. Senate[edit]



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.[15] 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.[16][17][18]

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.[19]

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

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.[20]

Begich said he intended to serve his full six-year term.[21]

On November 18, 2008, the Associated Press called the election for Begich,[22] 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.[23] Stevens conceded the race the next day.[24]

Begich's victory made him Alaska's first Democratic U.S. Senator since Mike Gravel left office in 1981.[25]


Begich is 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%).[26][27] 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."[28][29] In the final Rothenberg Political Report before the election, the Report considered the race a “Toss-up/Tilt Republican.”[30]

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."[31][32][33] Begich declined to pull the ad.[34]

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."[35] 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."[36]

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.[37] 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.[38][39][40]

On November 17, 2014, Begich conceded the election to Sullivan.[41]


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).[42]

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.[43][44]

According to an analysis by Congressional Quarterly in 2013 Begich voted with President Obama 97% of the time.[45]

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.[46][47]

Representative Don Young praised Begich for doing a "great job" representing Alaska.[48]

Begich has never received a roll-call vote on an amendment he has offered on the Senate floor.[49][50] Only one of his proposed bills has been passed into law, a proposal to rename an Anchorage courthouse.[51]

Committee assignments[edit]

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

Caucus memberships[edit]

Policy positions[edit]


Beigich is pro-choice[52] and opposes restrictions on late-term abortions.[53] He has received a 100% rating from the pro-choice organization NARAL and a 0% rating from the pro-life organization NRLC.[54][55][56][57]


Begich stated that he has concerns but will defend Ballot Measure 2 (Alaska Marijuana Legalization).[58]

Capital punishment[edit]

Begich stated that he generally opposes the death penalty.[59]

Domestic security[edit]

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.[58]

Gun rights[edit]

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


Beigich voted in favor of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (most commonly known as Obamacare) when the Bill first passed Congress.[67] Beigich 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.[58]

Same-sex marriage[edit]

Begich supports same-sex marriage.[69]

Veterans' affairs[edit]

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[edit]

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]

Begich is the only U.S. Senator without a college degree.[72][10] He has taken continuing education classes at University of Alaska Anchorage.[73]

Electoral history[edit]

Anchorage Assembly[edit]

Anchorage Assembly, Seat H 1995

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

Anchorage Mayor[edit]

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[edit]

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


  1. ^ "Mark Begich (D)". U.S. Congress Votes Database. Washington Post. Retrieved 27 August 2014. 
  2. ^ Atwood, Evangeline; DeArmond, Robert N. (1977). Who's Who in Alaskan Politics. Portland: Binford & Mort for the Alaska Historical Commission. p. 6. 
  3. ^ "Ted Stevens, Longest-Serving GOP Senator, Dead". CBS Interactive. August 10, 2010. Retrieved September 28, 2010. 
  4. ^ Bohrer, Becky. Republican Dan Sullivan wins Senate race in Alaska, Associated Press, November 12, 2014.
  5. ^ 2014 General Election - Unofficial Results, Alaska Department of Elections, November 4, 2014.
  6. ^ Davis, Susan (2014-08-24). "Alaska wants a fighter in the U.S. Senate". USA Today. Retrieved 27 August 2014. 
  7. ^ Murphy, Kim. "Begich ends low-key approach". Los Angeles Times. November 20, 2008.
  8. ^ Begich, Tom. (2006-04-30). "Tom Begich: Politics first" Interviewed by Judy Ferguson. Anchorage Daily News. Retrieved on 2007-04-04. Tom Begich, brother of Mark Begich, says of his father, "Until I was nearly 12, I grew up with a man who was a legend, the son of Croatian immigrants, but who disappeared Oct. 16, 1972, into the clouds."
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  10. ^ a b c d e Eliot Nelson (January 13, 2014). "Alaska Is At A Crossroads. Can Mark Begich Keep It From Falling Apart?". The Huffington Post. 
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  12. ^ Brown, Cathy (2002-05-14). "Legislature again refuses to vote on appointees". Juneau Empire. Associated Press. Retrieved 27 August 2014. 
  13. ^ "Mayors Against Illegal Guns: Coalition Members". 
  14. ^ "A Fourth Mayor Quits Bloomberg Anti-Gun Group - March 15, 2007 - The New York Sun". Retrieved 2010-08-29. 
  15. ^ Anchorage mayor announces run against Ted Stevens
  16. ^ Race Ratings Chart: Senate CQ Politics[dead link]
  17. ^ 2008 Senate Race Ratings The Cook Political Report, October 9, 2008[dead link]
  18. ^ 2008 Senate Ratings The Rothenberg Political Report, September 29, 2008
  19. ^ Alaska Senator Found Guilty of Lying About Gifts, New York Times, October 27, 2008
  20. ^ Forgey, Pat (April 12, 2009). "Palin denies saying Begich should resign". Juneau Empire. 
  21. ^ Bolstad, Erika; and Sean Cockerham. Palin, Republicans call for special Senate election. Anchorage Daily News, 2009-04-03.
  22. ^ Yahoo! News. Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens loses re-election bid November 18, 2008
  23. ^ Quinn, Sean. "Begich will be Alaska's first U.S. Senate Democrat since Gravel". November 18, 2008.
  24. ^ "Stevens concedes race". CNN Political Ticker (CNN). November 19, 2008. Retrieved November 19, 2008. 
  25. ^ Yardley, William (2008-11-19). "Congratulation and a Concession for Alaska’s Senator-Elect". New York Times. Retrieved 27 August 2014. 
  26. ^ Knickerbocker, Brad (29 May 2013). "Joe Miller tries again in Alaska: Another tea party dust-up?". Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved 22 April 2014. 
  27. ^ Pappas, Alex. "Why Joe Miller thinks he can win the race for Alaska’s Senate seat in 2014". Daily Caller. Retrieved 22 November 2013. 
  28. ^ "2014 Senate Race Ratings for July 18, 2014". Cook Political Report. Retrieved 7 August 2014. 
  29. ^ Pianin, Eric (February 15, 2013). "7 Senate Seats Most at Risk—Hint: They’re All Blue". Fiscal Times. Retrieved August 7, 2014. 
  30. ^ "Senate Ratings". Rotheberg Political Report. Oct 13, 2014. Retrieved 13 October 2014. 
  31. ^ Herz, Nathaniel (August 7, 2014). "Murkowski attorney demands Begich take down TV ad touting cooperation". Alaska Dispatch News. Retrieved 7 August 2014. 
  32. ^ Epstein, Reid (August 7, 2014). "Alaska Sen. Murkowski Tells Alaska Sen. Begich: Take Me Out of Your Ads". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 7 August 2014. 
  33. ^ Glueck, Katie (August 7, 2014). "Lisa Murkowski to Mark Begich: Knock it off". Politico. Retrieved 7 August 2014. 
  34. ^ Klimas, Jacqueline (Aug 11, 2014). "Attack ad 2.0: Sen. Begich won’t take down ad showing him working with Murkowski". Washington Times. Retrieved 13 October 2014. 
  35. ^ Johnson, Kirk (August 20, 2014). "Battle for Senate Control Puts a Spotlight on Alaska". New York Times. Retrieved August 27, 2014. 
  36. ^ Sargent, Greg (March 24, 2014). "A vulnerable Dem who is campaigning on expanding Social Security". Washington Post. Retrieved August 27, 2014. 
  37. ^ "Sen. Begich wrongly ties Republican opponent to horrific crime in inflammatory ad". PolitiFact. August 29, 2014. Retrieved September 13, 2014. 
  38. ^ Bump, Philip (September 2, 2014). "Mark Begich pulls a campaign ad suggesting his opponent was indirectly responsible for a sex crime". Washington Post. Retrieved September 10, 2014. 
  39. ^ Sarlin, Benjy (September 2, 2014). "Mark Begich pulls brutal attack ad after backlash". MSNBC. Retrieved 10 September 2014. 
  40. ^ Bobic, Igor (September 2, 2014). "Mark Begich Pulls Controversial Ad About GOP Challenger Dan Sullivan". Huffington Post. Retrieved September 10, 2014. 
  41. ^ Joseph, Cameron. Begich concedes Alaska Senate race, The Hill, November 17, 2014.
  42. ^ "Begich defends stimulus bill before veterans". Anchorage Daily News. February 16, 2009. Retrieved October 21, 2013. 
  43. ^ Drum, Kevin (November 16, 2012). "Mark Begich's Gigantic Tax Increase on the Rich". Mother Jones. Retrieved August 7, 2014. 
  44. ^ Spross, Jeff (2012-11-16). "Democratic Senator Introduces Bill To Lift Social Security’s Tax Cap, Extend Its Solvency For Decades". Think Progress. Retrieved 7 August 2014. 
  45. ^ Shiner, Meredith (February 3, 2014). "Senate Democrats Backed Obama On Overwhelming Number of 2013 Votes, CQ Roll Call Vote Studies Show". Roll Call (Congressional Quarterly). Retrieved August 7, 2014. 
  46. ^ "Graham introduces background check bill with NRA backing". CNN. March 6, 2013. Retrieved November 1, 2014. 
  47. ^ "S.480 - NICS Reporting Improvement Act of 2013". Retrieved 2 November 2014. 
  48. ^ Siddiqui, Sabrina (15 January 2014). "Mark Begich Draws Praise From Alaska Republican Don Young". Huffington Post. Retrieved 6 November 2014. 
  49. ^ Everett, Burgess (July 30, 2014). "Mark Begich blasts Harry Reid on amendments". Politico. Retrieved August 7, 2014. 
  50. ^ Bolton, Alexander (June 24, 2014). "Dems chafe under Reid’s rules as well". The Hill. Retrieved August 7, 2014. 
  51. ^ Fahrenthold, David (Jul 13, 2014). "Senate Democrat’s reelection pitch to Alaskans: I’m a thorn in Obama’s side". Washington Post. Retrieved 13 October 2014. 
  52. ^
  53. ^
  54. ^
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  58. ^ a b c Campus Election Engagement Project. October 17, 2014. Mark Begich vs. Dan Sullivan -- Nonpartisan Candidate Guide For Alaska Senate Race 2014. The Huffington Post. Retrieved: 26 October 2014.
  59. ^ Yardley, William. "Alaska’s New Senator Sees Change at Work". The New York Times. December 4, 2008.
  60. ^ Yardley, William. "Alaska’s New Senator Sees Change at Work". The New York Times. December 4, 2008.
  61. ^ "Mark Begich for U.S. Senate - Energy". Retrieved 2014-05-15. 
  62. ^ Gehrke, Joel (March 7, 2014). "Mark Begich waffles on letter he signed". Washington Examiner. 
  63. ^ "Begich: Opening ANWR key to energy plan". Anchorage Daily News. June 12, 2008. Retrieved February 26, 2014. 
  64. ^ "AK Dem Sen. Begich Won't Say If He Wants Obama To Campaign For Him". Real Clear Politics. November 14, 2013. Retrieved February 26, 2014. 
  65. ^ "ANWR Bill Passes Natural Resources Committee". Alaska Public Radio. February 1, 2012. Retrieved February 26, 2014. 
  66. ^
  67. ^
  68. ^
  69. ^
  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. [dead link]

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

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

2008, 2014
Most recent
Preceded by
Debbie Stabenow
Chairperson of the Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee
Succeeded by
United States Senate
Preceded by
Ted Stevens
U.S. Senator (Class 2) from Alaska
Served alongside: Lisa Murkowski
Succeeded by
Dan Sullivan
United States order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
Jeff Merkley
United States Senators by seniority
Succeeded by
Michael Bennet