Democrat Begich lukewarm in support of Obama

Mark Thiessen | Associated Press

Alaska's Democratic U.S. senator stopped short of endorsing President Barack Obama on Wednesday, while the Republican members of the state's congressional delegation whole-heartedly endorsed their party's nominee, Mitt Romney.

U.S. Sens. Mark Begich and Lisa Murkowski, along with Rep. Don Young, all were asked at the annual meeting of the state chamber of commerce in Anchorage which of the presidential candidates would be best for Alaska. Begich, the delegation's lone Democrat who attended via teleconference from Washington, D.C., said he was disappointed with Obama's actions regarding oil and gas.

"We've had to pound on their head over and over again to get results that are necessary for us to move forward in the Arctic," Begich said. "But we are now, after 30 years of discussions, we are moving forward."

He also spoke of the administration's lack of understanding of Alaska when it comes to roadless rules for Tongass National Forest and with the U.S. Department of Education's one-size-fits-all approach to education when that doesn't work in very rural parts of the state.

"I have my disappointments with the current president," Begich said, before ticking off concerns with Romney, including how his plans would affect the middle class.

Begich didn't offer an endorsement of either candidate.

"As he has done all his career, Sen. Begich will work with Republicans and Democrats to do what is best for Alaska. Sen. Begich believes Alaskans should make their own decisions about which candidate most closely aligns with their viewpoints and exercise their right to vote," his spokeswoman, Amy Miller, later said in an email.

The two Republicans, Murkowski and Young, didn't mince words when saying they believe Romney would be the best choice for Alaska.

"I don't think the last four years have been good for Alaska. I am not convinced they have been good for this country," said Murkowski, a Republican who added she was "looking forward" to a Romney presidency. Murkowski is a member of Romney's leadership team in Alaska.

Young said he was disappointed in Obama.

"I had high hopes for him, and he had a great opportunity but his philosophy and policy is true socialism," said Young, Alaska's only House member. "I believe that very strongly, and there's nothing wrong with that. That's what he believes, I just don't believe in that."

Young added he was "very high" on Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan.

"He's very honest and straightforward on the problems that face this nation," Young said. "He's not kicking the can down the road, and some people don't like that."


Associated Press