Opinion: If his usual supporters stay true, Begich can win in November

Lots of my Juneau friends are experiencing major heartburn over the governor’s race. They are primarily Democrats or open-minded moderates. I respect them, but I don’t feel conflicted at all. I’m voting for the candidate who most shares my values: Mark Begich.


I saw then-Senator Begich in action almost every day in D.C. He will be a successful governor because he knows how to bring people together and make a deal. He will seriously consider any good idea, no matter where it comes from. As his former legislative director, I know firsthand that Begich is always reading, always thinking and always looking for fresh, new solutions.

Which leads back to values: I want a governor who values the importance of innovative thinking, new ideas and a realistic yet enthusiastic optimism that we can make Alaska better.

More on values: Begich is the only Democrat in this race. He is the only pro-choice candidate, period. Gov. Bill Walker equivocates, saying he’ll support the law of the land. Mike Dunleavy is, well, forget it. The distinction is huge. If the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, each state will set its own policy on reproductive rights and women’s health.

What about steadfast support for marriage equality? Begich: yes. Walker: not so much. Dunleavy: never mind.

On the issue of equal pay for equal work, Begich always has been a champion of fairness. His first major vote in the Senate was in support of what became a new anti-discrimination law. That sounds like a no-brainer but 36 senators actually voted against the bill.

I have a health policy background, so my vote goes to the candidate who is strongest on children’s health, early learning and the right to basic health care coverage for Alaskans. On these issues, it’s Begich. I applaud the governor for expanding Medicaid. Yet Begich’s vote on health reform is what made expansion possible in the first place — and now 44,000 more Alaskans are covered.

I hope my friends won’t draw a line in the sand too quickly. Everyone is worried about Dunleavy, and rightly so. What I hear most is they’ve supported Begich in the past but now they’re afraid he’ll split the vote.

Let’s see how this shapes up in a few weeks. Begich is a hard campaigner and I won’t be surprised if he is well within striking distance, which means he would win with strong support from Democrats and open-minded moderates.

That’s why I respectfully suggest my friends take a second look. In a close race, if Begich is the candidate who most shares your values, the choice should be clear.

• Bruce Scandling is retired. He was a health policy staffer and legislative director for U.S. Sen. Mark Begich. He moved to Juneau in 1982 to work as a reporter at the Juneau Empire. My Turns and Letters to the Editor represent the view of the author, not the view of the Juneau Empire.


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