Resource development, debt spending and Alaska business are three issues, among others, at the forefront of Nick Begich III’s congressional campaign.
The 44-year-old Republican is running against Congressman Don Young for Alaska’s lone House of Representatives seat.
Begich joined the Soldotna and Kenai chambers of commerce for a public forum at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex on Wednesday — one of his first campaign stops on the Kenai Peninsula.
In a follow-up interview with the Clarion, Begich spoke about his background, political platform, and plans for his congressional campaign.
Alaska political roots
Nick Begich Sr., Begich’s grandfather, was a Democrat House representative in Washington, D.C., in 1972. On a campaign flight, Begich Sr. and another House member disappeared and were never found.
Young won Begich Sr.’s House seat in a special election shortly after.
Around that time, the younger Begich said, his parents split up and he moved from Alaska to Florida, where his grandparents lived.
“While I’m from Alaska, I grew up actually Outside with my grandparents, who were dyed-in-the-wool, Bible Belt Republicans from Missouri,” Begich said Wednesday. “So I was raised Republican, and raised with conservative values.”
He and his wife returned to Alaska 17 years ago and now live north of Anchorage. Begich owns a software development firm called FarShore and his wife works as a pharmacist.
He started getting involved with the Republican party about five years ago to “help conservative causes and Republican principles throughout the state,” he said.
In 2020, Young asked him to serve as his campaign co-chair.
“(I) characterized it as an opportunity to see the state, meet more of the folks and help him in his race, with the eye toward the future,” Begich said.
While working on Young’s race, he started thinking about the future of Alaska politics, after the incumbent leaves office.
“Following the race, I decided it was time for a new generation of leadership to step forward and take on the responsibility of representing Alaska in Washington, D.C.,” he said.
He filed campaign paperwork with the Federal Election Commission on Oct. 22, the Anchorage Daily News reported.
Energy and natural resources
One of the most pressing issues at the center of Begich’s campaign, he said, is resource development.
“I think it’s pretty clear that there remains tremendous potential for the state of Alaska moving into the future, but I believe that it requires us to make the business case for Alaska in D.C.,” he said. “And I believe that I have the skills and ability to communicate Alaska’s business case.”
Begich said he thinks his background as a business owner in the private sector are assets when making the case for both Alaska’s traditional energy economy and the nation’s future energy economy.
He said any form of energy that will help reduce the energy costs for rural and rail-belt Alaska is something that should be pursued.
“It’s a long-standing economic opportunity for Alaska to add value to the resources that we extract (and) through processing through subsequent manufacturing,” he said.
He said in particular that minerals, oil and gas, and timber resources are taken out of state.
“Those are just lost opportunities for Alaskans, and so part of the reason that that happens is because our energy prices are so high it’s uncompetitive,” Begich said. “So I’m for all-the-above energy production, for lowering the cost of energy in Alaska, both for businesses and for families.”
Inflation and national debt spending
National debt spending, Begich said, is another one of his most important issues.
In particular, he said inflation is causing an increase in consumer prices.
He said he supports fiscal discipline, in order to help stabilize consumer costs and supply chain logistical issues.
“At the end of the day, it’s healthy for our country to have that level of discipline,” he said. “The inflation that we have in this country is unsustainable — it’s a threat to the American middle class.”
He said Congress, and Young specifically, bear responsibility for issues related to national debt spending.
Jan. 6 commission
Begich said he would support law enforcement investigation of the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol if elected.
“I think that we need to let law enforcement continue to do their job,” he said.
Begich said he often thinks of Capitol police who were defending Congress members that day.
“They’re charged with defending the institution of the Congress and its members,” he said. “My heart goes out to them. We had a number of folks who were really doing their very best to manage that situation.”
Begich said people should respect the congressional process, and that the day of the Jan. 6 attack is one that shouldn’t be repeated.
“It’s unfortunate; it was a sad day in our nation’s history, and I would hope that it would not be repeated,” he said.
When it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic, Begich said policy decisions should come from scientific data, rather than hyper-politicization.
“I think we need to look at the science, de-politicize both the science and our response to it, and let the data lead the conversation,” he said. “The response to the pandemic has become so political that we’ve drowned out scientific voices of reason.”
He also noted the economic toll the pandemic has taken.
“I believe we’ve damaged our economy, more than we ever should have,” he said. “It’s the result of continued polarization in our nation, and we’ve got to find common ground and come back together as people.”
Begich reiterated that he wants to see new representation for Alaska in Congress.
“It’s time for 21st century leadership, and it’s time for someone with the energy and the passion to show up for the job,” he said Wednesday. “I’ll be there. I have the energy. I have the background. I have the passion to show up for the job and do a good job for the people of Alaska.”
He criticized his opponent, Young, for what he said was Young’s reluctance to adapt his political tactics and advance with a newer generation of constituents.
“People are ready for a change in leadership,” Begich said.
Young, 88, was first sworn into the Congress in 1973, and began his 25th term in 2020.
Begich said he’s looking forward to his race for the House seat and traveling the state.
“I’m excited about coming back to the Kenai Peninsula to spend a lot of time down here,” he said. “We’re going to meet people where they are and if people have questions, if they have concerns, I hope that they’ll take the time to reach out to come to one of the events.”
Begich will be in Homer to talk with voters next week. The event is hosted by the District 6 Republicans and will be from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Land’s End Resort on Jan. 19.
Reach reporter Camille Botello at firstname.lastname@example.org.