By SUZANNE DOWNING
It’s no secret to readers that I support Nick Begich III for Congress.
Back on Oct. 22, 2021, when Nick registered as a candidate, I realized that with ranked choice voting, it made complete sense to have more than one Republican on the ballot.
If not for a gutsy Republican to stand up with courage and file for Congress, the Democrats would dominate the “final four” and put Alaska’s House seat at risk under ranked choice voting.
There were also the actuarial tables for Congressman Don Young that informed me in supporting Nick. With octogenarians, life comes at you fast, and is a series of compromises and mitigations of the inevitable physical decline. I saw Don was in that phase. I had him on the Must Read Alaska podcast and, while his mind was sharp, his body was going, going, and soon it was gone.
Nick saw those things too. Ranked choice voting changed the formula for Alaska and Nick had the foresight and courage to step up. But he also had told Don that he’d be running “next time.” In fact, Nick had the courtesy to call Don and let him know he would be running, and they parted on friendly terms.
Voters were well-served in this scenario — both of these candidates represent conservative principles to varying degrees, although Nick is more fiscally conservative than Don had been in decades, and was also decades younger. A vote for Nick might mean a chance to start building seniority in the House.
For me, it was going to be “rank Don Young first, and Nick Begich second.” I don’t like ranked choice voting, but that was how I would rank them. When Don Young called me to ask if I still supported him, I told him I did and also that he needed to realize we had to have another Republican on the ballot, and Nick would be as good as it gets.
Then Don Young died and everything changed. The crowd rushed in.
Today, the D.C. Mafia, comprised of former staffers for Don Young and lobbyists who don’t live in the state and have never voted here, are pulling hard for the Democrat, Mary Peltola. I’m more convinced than ever I made the right choice.
When the D.C. Mafia starts telling lies about Nick, who served faithfully as Don’s former pro-bono campaign co-chair, you know it’s because these slick mercenaries want to control the person they install in office. Their pro-Peltola letters and tweets show what many of us had long suspected — Don Young’s staff was majority Democrat.
There are other former Don Young staffers and campaigners who are in the Nick Begich camp; they are not D.C. mercenaries. They are people like Rhonda Boyles, former co-chair of the Don Young campaign, and Curtis Thayer, who raised campaign funds for Don Young for decades. In fact, there is a list of over 75 conservative elected officials from Ketchikan to Fairbanks — people I admire — who are endorsing Nick.
The issues Nick is conversant in are at a level that neither Sarah Palin nor Mary Peltola can ever match. Nick had served as finance chair for the Alaska Republican Party and as president at Alaska Policy Forum, the conservative think tank.
Well, what about Sarah Palin? Like all the others on the special primary ballot, Palin did not think about running until Don was dead. She filed for office April 1. By then, there were dozens of good, solid Alaskans in the race, with her name being the most famous. She gave me no reason to think she was better than Nick, who had done the hard work for six months, taken the arrows from Don Young insiders, and had already won the endorsement of the Alaska Republican Party and Americans for Prosperity Action.
Palin had not done a thing to help Alaska in the years since she left office. Who can forget her endorsing Bill Walker for governor — the man who practically gave away our gasline to China and who is now an advocate of abortion — at any stage of gestation?
Who can forget the oil tax legislation she signed, essentially making Alaska such a high-tax province that it was as socialistic as any in the world. Investors went elsewhere.
Who can forget her kicking Gov. Sean Parnell to the side when he helped bring that high tax burden down to something reasonable, to try to bring oil investors back to Alaska’s rich fields. And of course, there is the quitting problem because she felt the job was too hard and she couldn’t get anything done.
I’m a fan of Palin when she stays in her role as a firebrand and a Fox News contributor. But I’m very sure she cannot swim in the deep end of any issue — she just doesn’t have the intellectual interest. She surrounds herself with bad advisers, and admitted that just last week, saying her campaign team had given her “crappy advice.” It’s Lisa Murkowski’s fault, she said, for endorsing Mary Peltola. I’m also very sure neither Palin or Peltola could stay up late at night poring over a 4-inch binder that has some complicated legislation that will require study and a vote.
Meanwhile, the Nick Begich III that I met in 2015 has continued to mature politically, was a major force in supporting conservative causes, and has the disposition to handle the job. He is ready. He is willing. He is able.
If Don Young was alive today, I would still rank him first for Congress, out of respect and for his seniority. But he is not. We needed a backup plan and Nick was smart enough to figure that out well over a year ago.
Thus, Nick Begich has moved into the first pick on my ballot. Now that the dust has settled and the final four are chosen, Sarah Palin has moved into second on my ballot That is how I will rank them and advise others to do the same.
The worst case scenario for Alaska is to have Peltola continue representing us in Congress. If Peltola wins, she’d be in the minority, and Alaska would pay a heavy price. We’ve already seen that she wants federal control over free speech, firearms, and abortions. Peltola is a partisan extremist who will vote party line with Biden and Pelosi. I’m not voting for who has the best smile or who has the best tribe.
On Election Day, Peltola is holding a get-out-the-vote event with Secretary of Interior Deb Haaland, the most despised member of the Biden Administration among Alaska voters. Haaland has done nothing but harm Alaska, and yet Peltola has joined forces with her. That tells me everything I need to know about Peltola’s true colors.
Nick Begich is the candidate I trust to do the right thing on behalf of Alaska’s economy, freedoms, and future. He’s a new generation of leader for Alaska, and he is far and away the smartest candidate on the ballot. I’m not voting for best smile. I’m not voting for sexy. I’m voting for smart.
Be sure to vote before Nov. 8.
Suzanne Downing is publisher of Must Read Alaska.