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GOP polling firm, Harper Polling, has good news for Senator Mark Begich (D. AK):

Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) leads a number of Republicans from the state in hypothetical match-ups, according to new numbers from GOP pollster Harper Polling.

Begich leads Alaska Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell (R) by 44 to 34 percent and holds a gaping 52 to 29 percent lead against 2010 Senate nominee Joe Miller (R), two Republicans who've indicated interest in the race. He also leads former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) by 47 to 40 percent. Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell (R), who hasn't shown any interest in the race, leads Begich by 46 to 40 percent. - The Hill, 2/1/13

Harper's polled 1157 likely voters and was conducted from January 29th to the 30th.  It's interesting that Harper's tested Begich against Governor Sean Parnell (R. AK), who isn't interested in running for Senate.  Maybe Harper's is trying to persuade him into running.  Even though this is a GOP poll it's still good news to see Begich with the lead, especially over Lt. Governor Mead Treadwell (R. AK) and Tea Party Wild Card, Joe Miller.  Both Treadwell and Miller are the two candidates most likely to mount a Senate bid against Begich.  Even though neither Treadwell or Miller have officially declared their candidacies yet, it's looking like it could be an ugly primary between the two:
Miller is making calls about another Senate bid, and has not yet signaled whether he'll run. But he published a post on his website (written by someone named Matt Johnson, identified as a freelance writer, consultant, and political activist) after Treadwell's announcement attacking the LG on having the "wrong ideas," including belief in global warming.

"Yeah, Treadwell is the anointed candidate of the Republican establishment," he writes. "So was Romney. How'd that work out for us?" - National Journal, 12/7/12

If you've been following Begich's work in the Senate, it's no surprise that he has the lead in a red state like Alaska.  He's proven to be an effective Senator not to mention changing demographics in Alaska:
Alaska GOP consultant Andrew Halcro thinks Republicans are underestimating Begich's chances due to the state's red hue. Halcro said Begich has been "solid on all Alaska issues." Begich has worked on developing the state's resources and opening up drilling (though Halcro pointed to Begich's support for the Affordable Care Act as his one possible "Achilles heel" vote).
One other factor worth noting as the race gears up: Alaska is undoubtedly still a red state, but as the New York Times' Nate Silver pointed out this week, President Obama lost it by 14 points rather than the 22 points he lost by in 2008. Yes, Sarah Palin was on the ballot in 2008, but Al Gore also lost the state by 31 points back in 2000. Among other factors, Silver notes that Alaska is getting a substantial population influx from liberal states like California, Washington, and Oregon. It may not be enough for Democrats to win on the presidential level in the near future, but won't hurt Begich in his reelection bid. - National Journal, 12/7/12
Begich has developed a close relationship with the Obama administration and the Department of Interior:

Part of Begich's argument for reelection will be that, by deploying a similar personal touch in Washington, he is singularly positioned to get things done for Alaska, especially with Democrats in charge. Begich notes how oil and gas development has begun moving forward in the Arctic since he took office. "People said for 30 years that we would not be able to develop the Arctic," Begich said. "We came in with a different approach of how we were going to talk about it, to convince my colleagues as well as a Democratic administration."

"When I ran, I know exactly what they said in the rooms to my face and behind my face," Begich continued. "It was, 'Oh my gosh, a Democratic president and Mark Begich: This is never going to happen.' The end result is we're moving forward. Shell will probably be in the field next year."

Begich said he spends a lot of time cajoling that Democratic president's administration, as well as his Senate colleagues. "The administration probably hears from us more than I think they'd want to," he said. "I think [Interior Secretary Ken] Salazar once said that he thought I had him on speed dial. The truth is, I do." - National Journal, 2/1/13

Begich has distanced himself from his party on issues like gun control and the Keystone Pipeline, which will help him in Alaska, but he has been loyal vote on a lot of key issues.  He came in support of the public option, he's been a loyal vote for health care reform and the President's stimulus package and jobs plan.  Begich has even joined ranks with Senators Tom Udall (D. NM), Al Franken (D. MN), Sherrod Brown (D. OH), Max Baucus (D. MT) and Jon Tester (D. MT) in their call to overturn the Supreme Court's decision on Citizens United.  He's also been very consistent in his voting record for looking out for Alaskans:
Identify a big national issue, and Begich drills it down to an Alaska issue. "Almost every issue has an Alaska nexus," Begich said. "And then the poor leadership gets to hear from me on a regular basis, why this is important to Alaska, whatever that little segment is, and if that's not in, don't talk to me." The transportation bill, Begich said, is an example of something that didn't include what Alaska needed. "I was one of 13 people who voted against it when it first came out, because it screwed Alaska. At the end of the day, Alaska was taken care of. We were happy people and so were my constituents. And guess what? Then I voted for the bill." - National Journal, 2/1/13
Begich is even making immigration reform an Alaskan issue:
Sen. Mark Begich gestures during a June 2 speech to students of the Rural Alaska Honors Institute. The institute was founded to give rural high school students an opportunity to transition more easily into college life. Begich espoused the values of higher education and hoped that all of the students would graduate the program and excel at the university level. Jeremia Schrock/Sun Star
"With regards to immigration, it's good to see a bipartisan effort moving forward," Begich said, "but we have a specific issue around our fishing industry, J-1 visas, to make sure" gets attention in immigration legislation. - National Journal, 2/1/13
Begich's hard work at making sure Alaska isn't overlooked on any issue has earned hims a spot on the Senate Appropriations Committee.  His hard work fighting for Alaska's Native American tribes also earned him a spot on the Indian Affairs Committee:
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.

"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

Begich's knowledge of Native American affairs may have even had an influence on the Sandy relief disaster bill the Senate passed recently:
Alaska did not receive any money in the Sandy relief bill that cleared the Senate Monday night.

The bill did include a provision that will allow tribes to directly apply to the federal government for future disaster aid.

A governor needs to request a federal disaster declaration for any issues in a particular state. Senator Mark Begich says that’s changing for tribes.

“It basically gives the tribes, in this case the federal government who recognizes them as a government, a direct request,” Begich said. - Alaska Public, 1/29/13

This is good news because in some states like South Dakota, past governors have at times either stalled or tried to ignore reaching out to FEMA to help Native American tribes in times of emergency:

The relief bill is designed to pay for Hurricane Sandy aid, not set policy. But tucked inside is a major change in protocol.

Tribal leaders can now appeal directly to the federal government for a disaster declaration – bypassing the state. Robert Holden is the deputy director of the National Congress on American Indians. He says there has been a history of governors ignoring disasters in Indian Country, so this is a welcome change.

He says not every tribe has the resources to do proper damage assessments and appeal directly to the federal government. - KTOO, 1/30/13

He's even made the case for strengthening Social Security an Alaskan issue by authoring the Protecting and Preserving Social Security Act:
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

Begich's plan has been endorsed by the Alaskan AARP and Strengthen Social Security Coalition:
“Sen. Begich’s bill serves the American people well in very important ways,” said Eric Kingson, co-chair of the Strengthen Social Security Coalition. “By asking high-income people to pay the same payroll tax contribution as everyone else, he dramatically improves the financing of Social Security. By improving the accuracy of the cost of living adjustment, he assures that seniors and people with disabilities will be able to maintain their standard of living as time goes on.” - Alaska Native News, 11/14/12
Begich even referenced the large senior demographic in Alaska when he made the case for his bill on the Senate floor:  

"Mr. President, a few weeks ago back home in Anchorage, I joined a group of seniors I presented this piece of legislation to them at the Anchorage Senior Center and she says she loves to describe herself as a "young woman from Alaska" stood up.  Beverly Moore, an 81-year old Korean War Navy veteran.  Beverly was there because the majority of her modest income comes from Social Security.  And she wanted to know how this proposal will strengthen that lifeline for her and thousands of Alaskans.  In fact, one in nine Alaskans receive Social Security.  With my states population of those 65 and older expanding rapidly, Social Security will continue to play a key role in supplementing a decent living.  If Social Security was not there for the elderly Alaskans, a fifth of them would live below poverty.  It's vital for our state, it's vital for all our states and for this whole country.  Mr. President I have no illusions that this bill is going to pass in the final weeks of this 112th congress but I wanted to get it into the mix.  I wanted to make sure people got the bigger point and again I would say to my residing officer and says this well and I know my friend here from Oregon who is on the floor also as we talk about the deficit that has taken center stage right now, we want to highlight one very clear thing: Social Security has not contributed, is not part of and never will contribute to the deficit.  So those who like to meddle in it and try to combine it into this deficit talk are just playing games with our seniors and disabled in this country." - U.S. Senator Mark Begich (D. AK), 12/7/12

Begich is also an original co-sponsor of the Paycheck Fairness Act:

“One of my first votes here in the Senate was for the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, and I continue to take up the fight for workplace equality. I was raised by a single mother of six from the age of 10. When I saw what my mom had to struggle through, what she had to earn to make sure we had food on the table, a comfortable life, and opportunities growing up, it is so clear to me that this is not a complicated issue. It is a fairness issue. I hope my colleagues on both sides of the aisle will allow this bill to come to a vote.” - U.S. Senator Mark Begich (D. AK)

His ability to turn national middle-class issues into local issues earned him the early endorsement from Alaska's AFL-CIO:
The Alaska AFL-CIO endorsed the Democrat this week, more than a year and a half before voters go to the polls.

“Senator Begich has shown time and time again that he cares about Alaska’s workforce. He values hard work and wants to make sure that good jobs come to Alaska, and stay in Alaska,” said Alaska AFL-CIO president Vince Beltrami in a statement.

The AFL-CIO represents more than 50,000 workers in the state. - KTOO, 1/24/13

Even Miller's own supporters know that Begich's popularity and likability make Begich a tough target:
First, Mark Begich is, without doubt, the most savvy politician in the state. Second, the whole government-media-complex will work tirelessly to make sure their golden boy wins re-election. Third, he will have David Axelrod and the whole ‘Chicago Machine’ at his disposal. And last, but not least, his secret weapon: unlike most politicians, people actually like this guy. -, 12/2/12
Even though Miller is a clown candidate, Alaska Democrats are taking his potential candidacy seriously and are expecting a close and expensive race:
Though Begich’s 2009 vote in favor of national health care reform remains one of his biggest political vulnerabilities, he has positioned himself as a moderate on a range of issues and is supportive of gun owner rights and drilling in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge.

But despite the incumbent’s quiet strengths, newly elected Alaska Democratic Party Chairman Mike Wenstrup believes that Miller would be a surprisingly strong opponent, in part due to his avid base.

“It’ll be the biggest race probably in Alaska history,” Wenstrup said of the Senate bout next year. “We expect it to be similar to the race Sen. [Jon] Tester ran in Montana in 2012, with lots of outside money coming in and lots of negative attacks from these outside PACs targeting Sen. Begich. At the same time, we expect Sen. Begich to have a lot of support in the state.” - RCP, 1/31/13

There truly is nothing sweeter than beating Republicans in red states.  Begich's style of campaigning helped him narrowly defeat incumbent Senator Ted Stevens (R) who was caught in the middle of F.B.I. investigation and in a year when Sarah Palin was on the top of the ticket.  The way he's successfully made every issue about Alaska has helped him climb up the legislative ladder in the Senate helping him influence legislature that can benefit Alaska.  Begich recently introduced a measure that would share federal funding for oil and gas drilling in Arctic waters near Alaska with the state:

The measure, introduced by Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, aims to ensure the state can collect a portion of the royalty payments, bonus bids and other revenue from offshore oil and gas leases that normally go straight into federal coffers. Shell Oil Co., bored the first half of two exploratory wells in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas north of Alaska last year, and other companies are looking to begin drilling there soon.

“Alaskans deserve their fair share, just like the residents of the Gulf Coast,” Begich said. “My bill not only encourages increased and responsible development of Alaska’s energy resources but also makes sure our communities benefit directly from oil and gas being produced in our own state.”

Begich’s bill would allow Alaska to collect 37.5 percent of the federal bonus bids and royalty payments from all nearby offshore energy development — the same share that Gulf Coast states are counting on beginning in 2017.

Of that 37.5 percent, Begich would require a quarter to go to local governments and a quarter to go to Alaska Native village and regional corporations. Ten percent would be directed to tribal governments and the remaining 40 percent would go to the state. - Fuel Fix, 2/1/13

Begich's most popular and most shared Facebook post was his objection to congressional pay raises:
Begich spokeswoman Amy Miller said Begich's Facebook post set the record for the most likes, comments and shares he's had on any post, with many of the commenters opposed to a congressional pay raise.
Miller said in an email that under the present circumstances, "it just doesn't sit right with people for members of Congress to be getting pay raises when substantial issues are unresolved, so many elected officials refuse to compromise and work together, and things are still tough in the economy." - Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, 1/1/13
Begich is so well liked that even Miller stopped by his office with his wife to thank Begich for recommending Miller's son to a military academy:
"You never know who will stop by the office," Begich wrote on a Facebook post accompanying a picture of the two.

Begich, running in the heavily Republican state, could be a top GOP target this cycle. But if Miller wins the Republican nomination, the senator would likely be in much better shape, as Miller is seen by many in Alaska as outside the mainstream.

Murkowski and Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) also backed Miller's son for the academy, and he stopped by to thank them as well. A Murkowski spokesman said the two had a "friendly Alaska conversation." - The Hill, 1/25/13

So it's no wonder that even a GOP poll shows Begich in decent shape for re-election.  I expect this race to be closer once the Alaska GOP picks their nominee and I guarantee you right wing Super PACs will spend big to get rid of Begich:
Matt Kibbe, the president and CEO of FreedomWorks, emphasized that his group will only get involved in a primary against a sitting GOP senator if the challenger has shown he or she has the “right skills.”

His group’s focus will be on finding conservatives who can win the chance to face Sens. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) and Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) in general-election match-ups.

“We’re looking at all of these potential Senate primary challenges,” he said. “Who is the Republican candidate who will take on the incumbent in Arkansas and Alaska? We want to repopulate the Republican Party with people who want to balance the budget.” - The Hill, 1/16/13

You may not agree on everything with Begich but he's a terrific public servant and he's been successful at making national issues local issues which is keep to moving the country forward.  It would be a nightmare for Republicans to lose to Begich in 2014 because it will only prove their fears true that the country is changing.  Especially the demographics in red states like Alaska.  I for one am greatly impressed with Begich and have a lot of respect for him and will be ready to fight for him in 2014.  Feel free to donate to his re-election campaign:

Originally posted to pdc on Fri Feb 01, 2013 at 12:30 PM PST.

Also republished by In Support of Labor and Unions, The Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party, and Native American Netroots.

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