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So there were two news stories out of Alaska that caught my attention.  First there's Senator Mark Begich's (D) work in the Senate to help Alaska's Native Americans:

http://www.alaskadispatch.com/...


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Alaska's junior senator fired off a letter to President Obama this week that essentially accuses the Indian Health Service of trying to rip off Alaska Natives and American Indians.

Sen. Mark Begich asks for the president's help in "seeing to it" that the agency pays the hundreds of millions of dollars it owes tribal health organizations for unreimbursed administrative costs dating back more than a decade. - Alaska Dispatch, 11/30/12

Over the summer, the Supreme Court ruled that the federal government must pay these tribes in full.  Begich claims that Yvette Roubideaux, director of the Indian Health Service, has been stalling the process by re-auditing claims it has already audited.  

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"In Alaska alone, three contractors suffered over $218 million in contract support shortfalls reaching as far back as 1997," Begich writes.

He adds that similar amounts are due tribes across the nation. "It is shocking that the agency would now delay justice, call for new audits, or seek 15 years later to renegotiate the amounts that were due at the time." - Alaska Dispatch, 11/30/12

The three Alaskan based tribes due the $218 million are the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium and Southcentral Foundation, based in Anchorage, and the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corp. of Bethel in Southwest Alaska.  The Indian Health Service office in Alaska is reviewing the Supreme Court decision in the Ramah Navajo case.  According to Lloyd Miller, an Anchorage attorney who has argued the case on behalf of tribes, the Indian Health Service owes more than 300 tribes and tribal organizations $800 million for the last six years alone.
The impact of the Supreme Court ruling is particularly important in Alaska, where 35 tribes and tribal organizations have completely taken over health-care services from the Indian Health Service, something that has not happened in any other state. The Alaska groups are due about one-third of the total amount owed, Miller said. - Alaska Dispatch, 11/30/12
While Senator Begich was fighting Native American tribes in Alaska, Lt. Governor Mead Threadwell (R) (yes that's his actually name) is looking into challenging Begich in 2014:

http://www.alaskadispatch.com/...


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Less than a month after one of the longest election seasons in modern political history, Alaskans awoke to the news on Saturday that yet another campaign -- this one for a seat in the U.S. Senate -- has unofficially begun.

Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell, speaking at a mining and minerals conference on Friday in Fairbanks, said he planned to explore the prospect of running against incumbent Sen. Mark Begich, Alaska's only Democrat in Congress. - Alaska Dispatch, 12/1/12

Treadwell's interest in the race has been known for a while now and we should be expecting more Alaska Republicans to be jumping into the race, especially Tea Party darling and failed 2010 Senate candidate, Joe Miller.  You may remember this little incident from the 2010 races:

http://www.npr.org/...


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According to news reports, Miller's private security guards on Sunday handcuffed and detained the founder and editor of an Alaska news web site in a public middle-school hallway.

The school was the site of a town-hall meeting. After the meeting,  as Tom Hopfinger of the Alaska Dispatch attempted to question Miller, the security guards moved in and, according to Hopfinger, told him he was trespassing.

When Hopfinger asked them to explain themselves, they handcuffed him until, as Hopfinger puts it, he was freed 30 minutes later by the Anchorage police. - NPR, 10/18/10

Miller as you may remember defeated incumbent Senator Lisa Murkowski (R. AK) in the primary only to be defeated by voters having written in Murkowski's name.

I think we should be expecting a pretty big and ugly primary to take shape soon.  Treadwell though has the most name recognition:

Challengers are expected to be numerous. Whenever Begich is asked who is going to run against him, he says, "who isn’t?" But Treadwell's been working hard the past years to bolster his conservative bona fides in the state. The once loftly, relatively moderate Republican can now stump with the best of Alaska's conservatives on issues like abortion and state's rights.


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Alaska is a Republican state and Treadwell has an august resume of his own: prior to serving as lieutenant governor, he was chairman of the U.S. Arctic Research Commission. He's also been successful keeping a relatively high profile as lieutenant governor, dabbling in transportation and aviation policy while taking a public role in the legal challenge to federal jurisdiction of Alaska's voting laws and election conduct. - Alaska Dispatch, 12/1/12

Begich has known for a long time that the Alaska GOP is aiming to make him a one term Senator and has been gearing up for this fight ever since he took office in 2009:

http://www.cnn.com/...


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"I always run like I am 15 points behind. You always run hard," Begich said. "I am focused in the last several years on the issues that matter to Alaska." - CNN, 11/14/12

Begich narrowly defeated disgraced incumbent Senator Ted Stevens (R. AK) who was indicted by a federal grand jury on seven counts of failing to properly report gifts.  Begich plans to make his upcoming race about real issues he and his constituents in Alaska really care about:

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Begich took the same tack -- listing issues like oil and natural gas, drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and transportation -- as his selling points to Alaskan voters. Throughout the conversation he mentioned issues most Democrats wouldn't touch, like auditing the Federal Reserve, strengthening gun rights and lowering the corporate tax rate.

Begich's strategy seems clear -- focus on issues that matter to Alaskans for the last two years of his term. - CNN, 11/14/12

Begich has broken off with his party on a few issues like tax break for the oil industry and drilling but he has assured Senate Majority Leader Reid that he won't let his re-election campaign cause him to become an obstructionist in the Senate:

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Begich says he assured Reid before the 2012 elections that he is ready to take hard votes and that the leader doesn't have to worry about putting him in a tough spot. Even so, said a confident Begich, he likes where he is two years out from the election.

"Some of the guys who were running for re-election (in 2012) had to moderate in my direction," Begich said. "I came in with these positions already because that is who I am." - CNN, 11/14/12

And Begich has proven to be an effective Senator for Alaska's interests:

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But since defeating Stevens, Begich has made a name for himself in the Senate, rising quickly in the majority leadership to help shepherd Shell Oil Arctic drilling plans through the Obama administration, thereby getting closer than any Republicans in Juneau have toward actually adding more crude to the trans-Alaska pipeline.

And Begich is one of the state's best politicians. - Alaska Dispatch, 11/30/12

There are two factors that could work in Begich's favor.  First, he's running for re-election during a midterm election and Obama won't be at the top of the ballot.  Another factor is President Obama's improvement in Alaska since 2008:

http://thehill.com/...


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President Obama has improved his standing in Alaska, however, a good sign for the freshman Democratic senator. Obama won 41 percent of the vote in the state this year, up from 38 percent in 2008, when then-Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) was on the ballot. - The Hill, 12/3/12

There are plenty of reasons progressives and Kossacks should support Begich's re-election campaign.  Begich supported the public option early on, has been a crucial vote in helping overturn DADT, supports the DREAM Act, ending the war in Afghanistan, voted against renewing the Patriot Act and indefinite detention of U.S. citizens.  But the biggest reason to support Begich is his bold plan to strengthen Social Security:

http://www.dailykos.com/...

Begich's plan to strengthen Social Security includes proposes:

http://alaska-native-news.com/...


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Increases Benefits for Seniors and Persons with Disabilities. Currently, Social Security benefits are adjusted by the Consumer Price Index for workers. However, costs and spending patterns for seniors do not mirror those of the workforce. That is why Sen. Begich’s bill calls for adjusting cost-of-living increases with a Consumer Price Index specifically for the elderly which was created to more accurately measure the costs of goods and services seniors actually buy.

Lifts the Cap on High-Income Contributions. Current law sets a cap based on income at $113,700 for paying into Social Security. If an individual’s wages hit that total for the year, they no longer pay into the program. Sen. Begich’s bill lifts the cap and asks higher income earners to pay Social Security on all their earnings in order to increase the program’s revenue stream and extend the overall solvency of the program.

Extends Social Security for approximately 75 years through modest revenue increases gradually implemented over the course of seven years. - Alaska Native News, 11/14/12

I like helping Democrats win and get re-elected in red states because it means progress for the country.  The changing demographics help send a message to Republicans that the country is changing and even their home turf is up for grabs.  It also shows that some of these red states aren't as conservative as they make themselves out to be.  Begich has been an excellent supporter of many progressives causes and if we are going to keep the Senate in Democrats hands, we need to get behind Begich.  His bold plan to strengthen the safety net should guarantee our support and I believe Begich when he's not afraid to make some hard votes.  He's proven to be both good for Alaska and the United States Senate.  

Begich's work for Native American tribes in Alaska will also be beneficial to his re-election campaign.  As we learned from Senate races in North Dakota and Montana this past election, the Native American vote is a sure way for Democrats to win in rural red states.  Karl Rove and every right wing Republican group is foaming at the mouth to take back this Senate seat.  Lets give Begich a head start for 2014:


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