RUNNING AGAINST TRUMP HAS BEEN BEGICH’S PLAY SINCE AUGUST
Charles Wohlforth had it right in the Anchorage Daily News, and he should know. After all, he went to high school with Mark Begich.
On Sept. 13, Wohlforth wrote about how a discouraged Begich dug deep into his emotional reservoir and stayed in the campaign for governor, against all odds. He did so by returning to his far-left roots.
Begich was at a campaign fundraiser at the home of Sen. Berta Gardner, and he was losing his voice. But he was inspired by the women gathered there to hear him. Someone took a fuzzy phone video of him speaking candidly and from the heart.
Wohlforth tells the story:
“Begich, who had almost lost his voice, abandoned campaign talking points and spoke against President Trump and for living wages and child-care support,” Wohlforth wrote.
“The reaction to the video and his own emotions after his unfiltered comments convinced him to stay in the race and remade his campaign. Now Begich hopes to catch on as anti-Trump Democrats have in other parts of the country, using social media to activate disaffected voters and true believers.”
According to Wohlforth, Begich was somewhat demoralized in August. His campaign, launched on June 1, had not caught fire and he had not won the important union endorsements he had hoped for.
“Speaking to Alaska Women for Political Action, in Sen. Berta Gardner’s East Anchorage yard, he said, ‘Part of the job of a governor also is to speak out when a president is wrong, because it affects us all. You cannot be silent. You cannot sit there and hope it all works out.'”
And so he tacked hard left, and began running against President Trump, and against the business community. He went for the LGBT vote, and the Stand for Salmon environmentalists. Walker opposed Ballot Measure 1, so Begich would have to be for it.
“But now Begich is speaking a new language, one that hasn’t been heard much from mainstream statewide campaigns in Alaska: Attacking a Republican president, supporting Proposition 1 to protect salmon habitat, and emphasizing support for the working poor,” Wohlforth wrote, approvingly.
Donald Trump won Alaska by a mandate in 2016. Some 51.28 percent of the vote was for Trump, while Hillary Clinton received just 36.55 percent, a 15-point difference. Running against Trump is risky.
There was one thing Begich had no idea would happen back in August when he tacked to the “resist” vote: He had no idea that Gov. Bill Walker’s race would melt down just three weeks before the General Election.
Now that Begich is the nominee of the Democrats, and now that Walker has dropped his bid, Begich will attempt to drive his message back to the center in hopes that the centrists won’t remember what he said last summer.
It might be too late for that — the funds that have poured into the Mike Dunleavy campaign have given the Dunleavy team a shot in the arm so they’ll be ready for Begich’s trick shot over the bow — whatever it is and whenever it comes.
Meanwhile, the Alaska Democratic Party has little cash on hand to help the Begich effort. The Democrats are down to about $67,000, and have no time to raise the money they’d like to give to the Begich effort, as well as support all their other campaigns statewide. The ADP could probably muster $104,000 for Begich if they swept out all the cupboards and starved the state races of support they need.
BEGICH, THE TRUE PROGRESSIVE
Wohlforth, a left-leaning columnist who mainly sticks to the high ground, seemed giddy to see Begich abandon his faux centrist persona and become the person he really is: The anti-oil guy who has had four fundraisers in Alaska for fellow anti-oil senator Maria Cantwell.
Begich has revealed himself to be the anti-business candidate, badmouthing Walmart, Costco, and Lowes for not paying their workers what Begich thinks they should be paid.
“Begich is having fun. He is enjoying channeling the values of liberal Alaskans who usually have to compromise when they vote. Whether there are enough of them to win an election I don’t know, but I don’t think Begich will drop out now. He feels he is part of a movement,” Wohlforth wrote.
Liberal Democrats running in red states, but sticking to their progressive talking points, is a bold play. In Texas, Sen. Ted Cruz is fighting off a challenge from Democratic Rep. Beto O’Rourke, who raised more money in three months than any Senate candidate ever has. In Alaska, Alyse Galvin is a no-party candidate, but her talking points come straight from the Democrats.
In Alaska’s governor’s race, Dunleavy is still ahead by several points, although with Bill Walker out of the race, the calculation is refiguring.
Alaska hasn’t elected a Democrat as governor since 1998, and those were very unusual circumstances that included a write-in campaign from Robin Taylor and a scandal that developed around John Lindauer (he was using his wife’s money to fund his campaign and under campaign laws that was illegal).
BEGICH GOES FOR WALKER VOTES — BUT WILL THEY MOVE OVER?
Complicating matters for Begich is that he and Walker were fighting over the same votes, and with Walker’s name still on the ballot, they still are fighting over the same votes.
In fact, after Walker’s full-throated apology to the entire Native community last week, Alaskans might understand why many Natives will vote for Walker out of gratitude, or simply because he is was “done wrong” by Mark Begich.
That means significant Begich campaign resources will have to be spent just telling people not to vote for Walker, even though his name remains as a choice for voters.
Even Walker and his entire family will likely vote for Walker come Election Day, and so will some of the Walker loyalists who are mad at Begich for jumping in the race in the first place. Convincing them to come over to the candidate who destroyed Walker’s chances isn’t going to be that easy.
Walker will steal votes from Begich. Even a dead man can get votes when it’s that close to an election. On Oct. 16, 1972, the plane carrying Alaska Rep. Nick Begich disappeared, but he still won the election three weeks later, 56 percent to Don Young’s 44 percent.
And Dunleavy will certainly inherit a block of the centrists votes that Walker had. Some people will just never vote for a Begich.
Early voting started today, just three days after Walker dropped out of the race, and the lines are long. Voters are engaged and have made their decisions. This election is on now. People are not waiting until Nov. 6 — they’re ready to fill in the oval today, if the lines are any indication.