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Minnesota’s political pipeline to Alaska

The Begich clan has been a part of Minnesota and Alaska politics for decades.

The newest Begich on the scene is Mark Begich, mayor of Anchorage, a Democrat who is leading in the polls against Republican incumbent Ted Stevens in Alaska’s U.S. Senate race.

Mark Begich is the nephew of Joe Begich, who served as mayor of Eveleth, Minn., for four terms and then served in the Minnesota House of Representatives from 1974 to 1992. Joe, 78, remains a member of the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board.

It was Joe’s kid brother, Nick, who seemed destined to be the family’s political star. In 1970, he won Alaska’s only U.S. Congressional seat. But in October 1972, while campaigning for his second term, the plane carrying Nick and U.S. Rep. Hal Boggs of Louisiana disappeared somewhere between Anchorage and Juneau. The wreckage never was found.

“They were grooming him for a Senate run someday,” said Joe. “That’s why Boggs was there. (Ted) Kennedy was supposed to be there the next week.”

Incredibly, Nick Begich still managed to defeat Don Young in the general election. But in December 1972, when he was declared dead, a special election was held. Young won and has been representing Alaska ever since.

Mark Begich, 45, is Nick’s son. According to Uncle Joe, “he’s not running with the dirty stuff. He’s running on the theme that it’s time for a new generation.”

Most of the dirty stuff about Stevens is well known in Alaska. He’s under investigation by the FBI and IRS for alleged corruption. But he remains a powerful opponent, having won more than 66 percent of the vote in elections going back to 1972.  He first was sent to the Senate by appointment in 1968.

Polls show Stevens running safely ahead of his Republican primary challenger. But he currently trails Begich, 51-44 percent, in the Senate race.

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