U.S. House candidate Begich coming to Wrangell on Friday

Nick Begich, who is running against fellow Republican Sarah Palin and Democratic incumbent Mary Peltola for Alaska’s single U.S. House seat, will be in Wrangell on Friday. He is the only one of the three leading candidates to schedule a visit to the community.

His conservative platform includes deregulating Alaska minerals development and bolstering the state’s role in supplying resources to the nation.

Peltola won the House seat in August to fill out the unexpired term of the late Rep. Don Young until January. The Nov. 8 general election will select a winner for a full two-year term.

Begich came in third to Peltola and Palin in the August special election.

Both Palin and Begich had been called on to drop out of the Nov. 8 election and rally conservative voters around a single Republican candidate. But the deadline to withdraw passed long ago, and the two Republicans have been attacking each other on the campaign trail while criticizing the fact that a Democrat represents Alaska in Congress.

Begich, in a phone interview on Oct. 28, said he is optimistic about his ability to beat both of his high-profile opponents — Palin is a household name from her time as governor of Alaska, vice presidential candidate and social media personality, and Peltola, who has received significant recognition as the first Alaska Native in Congress.

“We have a really strong case for winning this race,” said Begich, citing Palin’s “severe unpopularity” among Alaskans. According to a July 2022 poll, 60% of Alaska voters have a negative view of Palin.

Begich does not support the recent bipartisan federal infrastructure law which will send $1.6 billion to rural ferry systems, much of which will come to Alaska. Begich criticized the bill for insufficient investment in “hard infrastructure” like railways and ports.

Though he opposes “profligate” spending in D.C., he supports federal investment in the Alaska Marine Highway System.

“We must make sure that the ferry system is well funded,” he said. “It is a highway. This is actually the way people move in and out of Southeast Alaska. … To me, it’s as important as the Glenn Highway or the Seward Highway.”

Begich believes that the federal government should be “very active” in transboundary river advocacy. Salmon stocks in rivers on the U.S.-Canadian border have been crashing in recent years, with salmon supporters blaming past and present Canadian mining activity for harming water quality. Though Begich is pro-mining, he would seek to hold Canadian mining interests to higher environmental standards.

“We need to make sure that we’re asserting our rights given that these waters flow into our rivers, streams and oceans,” he said, and plans to “(make) sure that any emissions coming off of tailing facilities meet the same standards they would meet in the United States.”

Begich also advocates “focusing education on the student” to improve Alaska’s poorly ranked school system. He supports funding education through federal block grants, which typically involve less federal oversight than other grant types and contain fewer provisions to guide how state governments allocate the money.

“The state has the discretion to use that as the state sees fit,” he said. “Local control is important.”

He also advocates voucher funding, which allows parents to choose the school that their child attends. Critics of voucher funding point out that such programs divert money from public schools to private and religious institutions, which may already have alternative funding sources.

During his upcoming visit to Wrangell, Begich plans to go door knocking, do a KSTK interview, and meet with community members at the Elks Lodge. Based on his previous visit to the community, he described Wrangell as “probably the most conservative town in Alaska.”

 

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