NY lawyer takes on Begich - without leaving home

zhollander@adn.comNovember 21, 2013 

William "Bill" Bryk

FILE PHOTO

A 58-year-old attorney from Brooklyn who's never been west of Buffalo, N.Y., is challenging current U.S. Senator Mark Begich in Alaska's 2014 Democratic primary.

William "Bill" Bryk wants Begich to have some competition. No other Democrats have filed to run against the one-term incumbent.

Bryk -- it rhymes with "bike" -- plans to move to Alaska with his wife, Mimi, four cats and the household furniture if voters back him -- but not a day before.

"If the Democrats of Alaska are so wise as to nominate me at their primary then indeed I will be a resident of Alaska on Election Day," Bryk said. "Until that time, though, it's not necessary."

Bryk is something of a serial out-of-state candidate. He's run, unsuccessfully, for Congress in Indiana and for U.S. Senate seats in Wyoming and Idaho. There may even be another state in there somewhere.

His filing with the Alaska Division of Elections was certified in late September, state elections director Gail Fenumiai said Thursday.

Now, hang on just a second.

How do you run for a Senate seat in Alaska when you list your address as 74th Street in Brooklyn, N.Y.?

Look no farther than the U.S. Constitution, which lays out the following conditions: "No Person shall be a Senator who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty Years, and been nine Years a Citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State for which he shall be chosen."

Bryk attained the age of 30 years in 1985. He was born in the United States. And, if victorious, he plans to inhabit Alaska on Election Day, which is how the U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly interpreted the Constitution on the point of residency, he said.

He's right, Fenumiai said. "The federal constitution guides what the qualifications are for running for senator. They have to be an inhabitant of the state."

Bryk decided to run against Begich because it appeared no Alaskans would.

"I am a firm believer that democracy requires an element of choice," he said.

His Senate platforms include reforming the existing public health care system -- "Medicare for everybody!" as he puts it -- opting for a single-payer system instead of building one from scratch like the Affordable Care Act; opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for oil and gas development; and building a railroad link between Alaska and the Lower 48.

Bryk spent 33 years in New York City government as a staffer for the City Comptroller, Manhattan Borough President, City Council President, and several other entities, according to a bio he provided called "Something of Myself."

His law practice centers on guardianship and fiduciary law, mostly in the form of court referrals to make sure guardians don't take advantage of the debilitated people in their care.

He doesn't plan to visit Alaska during campaign season.

Begich's campaign didn't sound too worried about the competition.

A New York Democrat and an Alaska Democrat are different animals, campaign manager Susanne Fleek-Green said. Begich, of course, was born and raised in Alaska.

"I think the reason that no one is running against Sen. Begich is they're happy with his record," Fleek-Green said.

Five Republicans have declared their plans to run against the eventual winner of Begich versus Bryk: Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell; former Natural Resources Commissioner Dan Sullivan; former U.S. Senate nominee Joe Miller; Palmer student and U.S. Air Force veteran John M. Jaramillo; and Anchorage resident and anti-abortion activist Kathleen M. Tonn. Meanwhile, it's unlikely the Democratic primary will widen much beyond Begich and his East Coast competition. The Alaska Democratic Party stands firmly behind Begich.

"It was a unanimous endorsement," party spokesman Zack Fields said. "There's a pretty clear difference in values between Sen. Begich and his Republican competition. There's going to be major choices in this election -- and it's going to be in the general."

The Alaska Republican Party had a slightly different take on the Begich race. At least, Brooklyn-born party chairman Peter Goldberg did.

"I suppose, if I were a Democrat, given that I grew up in Brooklyn, I'd vote for the other guy," Goldberg said.

Then he started talking about food. Egg cream. Knishes. Pizza.

"Obviously I'm not in favor of Mark Begich for a variety of reasons," he said. "But at least I can relate to this other guy at some level."

The primary election is Aug. 19. 

Reach Zaz Hollander at zhollander@adn.com or 257-4317.

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