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Today, Anchorage's Democratic Mayor Mark Begich announced his candidacy for the US Senate. I'm happy to say that I've signed on to work as his Online Communications Director. Many of you probably know me best from my time as Chris Dodd's blogger. As with Dodd, I'll be helping Mark Begich maintain a strong presence in the netroots community and utilize internet tools as a means to communicate with voters across Alaska. It's a challenge that I relish - most of all because I believe Begich will give us a great chance to turn Alaska blue.

I think the Alaska Senate race is going to be one of the most hard-fought opportunities for Democratic gains in America this cycle. Ted Stevens has represented Alaska in the Senate for forty years. He’s not so much a Senator in Alaska, as a symbol. And symbols are hard to beat. But I’m up for the challenge and I know Mark Begich is ready to lead.

It’s time for Alaska to retire Ted Stevens. From his unquestioning support of the Republican party line on endless war in Iraq, to his repeated votes for retroactive immunity for the big telecom companies, to his vociferous — if ill informed — opposition to net neutrality, to the ever-growing clouds of corruption that surround him, it’s clear to me that Alaska can do better than Ted Stevens.

I first spoke to Mark Begich last month. I’d been in talks with his campaign about coming on board and while I had heard good things about him, I wanted to get a better sense of what sort of person he was and what sort of candidate he will be. Ideally I would have had the meeting in person in Anchorage, but for time considerations, that just didn’t make sense. On Mark’s suggestion we instead had a Skype video conference call that lasted 40 minutes.

Beyond learning that Mark was very tech-savvy, I found him to be an interesting, smart person who was ready to take his career of public service for Alaska to another level. What stood out was that Mark is a dynamic politician with a good sense for solving problems. He impressed me with his experience building a successful health care system for Anchorage’s municipal employees in the face of massive rising private costs. Begich’s ideas for using a full slate of non-renewable and renewable energy sources prevalent in Alaska, combined with strong conservation efforts, to build an Alaskan energy policy that would make America more secure strike me as the sort of solution that could both win in Washington and free us from our dependence on foreign oil.

But most of all, when I asked him about what he thought of retroactive immunity and the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping Begich was able to show his appreciation for the US Constitution. Citing his civil libertarian tendencies, Mark made clear that he opposed retroactive immunity and he would stand up for the Constitution as a US Senator. I don’t know yet whether or not civil liberties will be a part of the discussion in Alaska this year, but I do know that Mark Begich will be another vote for the rule of law come January 2009. That’s an issue of immeasurable importance to me and I was glad to hear Mark is where we need more Senate Democrats to be.

There will be much more to come, but for now, please visit www.begich.com, join the campaign’s email list, and stay tuned for updates from Alaska on the Begich blog.

You can also make a donation to the Begich campaign through ActBlue.

Lastly, I promise to bring Mark onto Daily Kos himself to talk with the community here. I'm hoping we can do this tomorrow around 9am AK time (1pm Eastern).

I'll leave you with a video of Mark explaining why he's running for US Senate.

Thanks so much,
Matt Browner Hamlin
mattbrownerhamlin@begich.com

Originally posted to Matt Browner Hamlin on Mon Apr 21, 2008 at 04:54 PM PDT.

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