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
Mayor of Anchorage, Alaska
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)
Anchorage, Alaska
Nationality American
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Deborah Bonito
Relations son of Nick Begich (1932-1972)
Children Jacob Begich
Residence Anchorage, Alaska
Alma mater Steller Secondary School

Mark Peter Begich[1] (/ˈbɛɡɪ/; born March 30, 1962) is the junior United States Senator from Alaska and a member of the Democratic Party. A former mayor of Anchorage, he served on the Anchorage Assembly for almost ten years prior to being elected mayor in 2003. In the 2008 Senate election, Begich defeated incumbent Ted Stevens, the longest serving Republican member of the Senate of all time.[2][3]

Born in Anchorage, he is the son of former U.S. Representative Nick Begich. At 26, he was elected to the Anchorage Assembly. 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.

Begich won the Democratic nomination in the 2008 Senate election. He defeated longtime incumbent Republican Ted Stevens. Stevens had been facing ethics and corruption charges and was convicted of felony violations a week before the election. Begich became the Chairman of the Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee in 2011.

Early life, education and early political career[edit]

Begich was born in Anchorage, Alaska and is the first person born there to be elected as the city's mayor. 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.[4]

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 Austria–Hungary in 1911.[5] His mother had Polish, Bohemian (Czech), Dutch, and English ancestry.[6] He attended Steller Secondary School in Anchorage. When he was 16 he opened an under-18s nightclub called The Motherlode and by the time he was 18 he had a business license to sell jewelry and was helping his mother manage several real estate properties. Because of his business opportunities, he decided not to go to college.[7] Begich is one of only two U.S. Senators without an undergraduate college degree.[8] He has taken continuing education classes at University of Alaska Anchorage.[9]

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.[7] 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.[7] In 1989, Begich led the opposition to the sale of the municipally-owned Anchorage Telephone Utility (ATU) to private interests. ATU was eventually sold in 1999 (after Begich had left the Assembly). Begich was also one of the chief sponsors of the introduction of photo radar. During his time in the Assembly, he helped manage his family's real estate portfolio and started a vending machine company.[7]

Begich served for a number of years on the Alaska Commission on Postsecondary Education, including as its chair. In 2001, Governor Tony Knowles appointed Begich to the University of Alaska Board of Regents, but the Legislature did not confirm the appointment.[10]

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 win, despite a simultaneously approved law increasing the threshold needed to avoid 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. Knowles was later elected to two terms as Governor of Alaska.

Begich is a former member of the pro-gun control group Mayors Against Illegal Guns.[11] Begich left the group.[12]

U.S. Senate[edit]

2008 election[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.[13] 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.[14][15][16]

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.[17]

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.[18]

Begich said he intended to serve his full six-year term.[19]

On November 18, 2008, the Associated Press called the election for Begich,[20] 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.[21] Stevens conceded the race the next day.[22]

Begich's victory made him the first Democrat to represent Alaska in either chamber of the United States Congress since incumbent Mike Gravel, who was defeated by Clark Gruening in the 1980 United States Senate primary election. Gravel left the Senate in 1981 upon the expiration of his term. Begich is the first Croatian-American elected to the United States Senate. He is also the first former Mayor of Anchorage to be elected to the Senate.


Begich is pro-choice, supports same-sex marriage,[23] and supports drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.[24][25][26] He opposes the Patriot Act and claims to "generally" oppose the death penalty.[27]

In 2008, Begich supported the creation of a national cap-and-trade system for controlling greenhouse gas emissions.[28] 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.[29]

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).[30]

Begich supported President Barack Obama's health reform legislation: he voted for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in December 2009,[31] and he voted for the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010.[32]

On December 18, 2010, Begich voted in favor of the Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act of 2010.[33][34]

In April 2013, Senator Begich was one of forty-six senators to vote against the passing of a bill which would have expanded background checks for all gun buyers. Begich was one of only five Democrats to vote with 41 Republicans to stop the bill.[35]

Begich is up for re-election in 2014. He will face the winner of the Republican primary contested by Lt. Governor Mead Treadwell, former Alaska Attorney General and Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Daniel S. Sullivan and 2010 Tea Party favorite[36] and U.S. Senate nominee Joe Miller, vying to challenge for his seat.[37]

Committee assignments[edit]

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

Caucus memberships[edit]

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[38]

  • Rick Mystrom, 58.0%
  • Mark Begich, 42.0%

Anchorage Mayor, 2000

  • George Wuerch, 52%
  • Mark Begich, 47%

Anchorage Mayor, 2003

  • 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[40]
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

Personal life[edit]

In 1990, Begich married 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 Begich, who was born in July 2002.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Atwood, Evangeline; DeArmond, Robert N. (1977). Who's Who in Alaskan Politics. Portland: Binford & Mort for the Alaska Historical Commission. p. 6. 
  2. ^ "Ted Stevens, Longest-Serving GOP Senator, Dead". CBS Interactive. August 10, 2010. Retrieved September 28, 2010. 
  3. ^ "Mark Begich for U.S. Senate - Alaska: Begich Unseats Long-Time Incumbent". Retrieved June 11, 2014. 
  4. ^ Murphy, Kim. "Begich ends low-key approach". Los Angeles Times. November 20, 2008.
  5. ^ 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."
  6. ^
  7. ^ a b c d Eliot Nelson (January 13, 2014). "Alaska Is At A Crossroads. Can Mark Begich Keep It From Falling Apart?". The Huffington Post. 
  8. ^ Reske, Henry J. (March 5, 2009). "10 Things You Didn't Know About Mark Begich". U.S. News and World Report. 
  9. ^ White, Deborah. "Profile of Mayor Mark Begich, '08 Senate Candidate from Alaska".
  10. ^ Annotated historical listing of UA Regents Retrieved on February 17, 2010
  11. ^ "Mayors Against Illegal Guns: Coalition Members". 
  12. ^ "A Fourth Mayor Quits Bloomberg Anti-Gun Group - March 15, 2007 - The New York Sun". Retrieved 2010-08-29. 
  13. ^ Anchorage mayor announces run against Ted Stevens
  14. ^ Race Ratings Chart: Senate CQ Politics[dead link]
  15. ^ 2008 Senate Race Ratings The Cook Political Report, October 9, 2008[dead link]
  16. ^ 2008 Senate Ratings The Rothenberg Political Report, September 29, 2008
  17. ^ Alaska Senator Found Guilty of Lying About Gifts, New York Times, October 27, 2008
  18. ^ Forgey, Pat (April 12, 2009). "Palin denies saying Begich should resign". Juneau Empire. 
  19. ^ Bolstad, Erika; and Sean Cockerham. Palin, Republicans call for special Senate election. Anchorage Daily News, 2009-04-03.
  20. ^ Yahoo! News. Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens loses re-election bid November 18, 2008
  21. ^ Quinn, Sean. "Begich will be Alaska's first U.S. Senate Democrat since Gravel". November 18, 2008.
  22. ^ "Stevens concedes race". CNN Political Ticker (CNN). November 19, 2008. Retrieved November 19, 2008. 
  23. ^
  24. ^ "Begich: Opening ANWR key to energy plan". Anchorage Daily News. June 12, 2008. Retrieved February 26, 2014. 
  25. ^ "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. 
  26. ^ "ANWR Bill Passes Natural Resources Committee". Alaska Public Radio. February 1, 2012. Retrieved February 26, 2014. 
  27. ^ Yardley, William. "Alaska’s New Senator Sees Change at Work". The New York Times. December 4, 2008.
  28. ^ "Mark Begich for U.S. Senate - Energy". Retrieved 2014-05-15. 
  29. ^ Gehrke, Joel (March 7, 2014). "Mark Begich waffles on letter he signed". Washington Examiner. 
  30. ^ "Begich defends stimulus bill before veterans". Anchorage Daily News. 16 February 2009. Retrieved 21 October 2013. 
  31. ^ [1]
  32. ^ "U.S. Senate: Legislation & Records Home > Votes > Roll Call Vote". Retrieved 2010-08-29. 
  33. ^ [2]
  34. ^ "Senate Vote 281 - Repeals ‘Don't Ask, Don't Tell'". The New York Times. 
  35. ^ Silver, Nate (April 18, 2013). "Modeling the Senate's Vote on Gun Control". The New York Times. 
  36. ^ Knickerbocker, Brad (29 May 2013). "Joe Miller tries again in Alaska: Another tea party dust-up?". Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved 22 April 2014. 
  37. ^ Pappas, Alex. 4/ "Why Joe Miller thinks he can win the race for Alaska’s Senate seat in 2014". Daily Caller. Retrieved 22 November 2013. 
  38. ^ 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.
  39. ^ Blumberg, Peter. (1994-05-18). "Mystrom new mayor." Anchorage Daily News. Retrieved at (subscription required) on 2007-04-04.
  40. ^ "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
United States Senate
Preceded by
Ted Stevens
U.S. Senator (Class 2) from Alaska
Served alongside: Lisa Murkowski
Party political offices
Preceded by
Frank J. Vondersaar
Democratic nominee for United States Senator from Alaska
(Class 2)

Succeeded by
Preceded by
Debbie Stabenow
Chairman of the Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee
2011 – present
United States order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
Jeff Merkley
United States Senators by seniority
Succeeded by
Michael Bennet