Former Sen. Begich says he won't run for any office this year

JUNEAU — Former U.S. Sen. Mark Begich says he will not run for any elected office this year.

In an interview with The Associated Press, the Democrat, who lost his 2014 re-election bid to Republican Dan Sullivan in a hotly contested race, said he has felt pressure from Alaskans to run but wants to focus for now on building his consulting business and spend time with his family. After 22 years in elected office — as a U.S. senator, mayor of Anchorage and Anchorage Assembly member — "it's nice to take a break," he said.

But he said he loves public policy and his public policy work is giving him an opportunity to engage in a different way. He said he's been involved with tribal, fisheries, housing, aviation and other issues. His consulting business is Northern Compass Group LLC. He also is president and CEO of the Foundation for Hospice and Homecare.

The two major races in Alaska this year feature U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski and U.S. Rep. Don Young. Both Republicans are seeking re-election. So far, neither has garnered high-profile challengers. The filing deadline for political party candidates for this year's primary is June 1.

Murkowski, who lost the GOP primary in 2010 but mounted a write-in campaign to keep her job, ended 2015 with about $3.1 million available. While money is important for campaigns, "this year is a different cycle," Begich said in the late Monday interview. "People who are different, unique, can catch fire fairly quickly."

There is a frustration with Washington, D.C., he said. What you're seeing in the presidential race is that people want authenticity, he said.

"It's a wild year in a lot of ways, and for me personally, it's kind of a nice year to not be running," Begich said. Besides spending time with family and friends and on his business he can participate in politics on the periphery and is enjoying that, he said. "It's giving me a chance to see it from a different angle," he said.

Begich did not close the door on a possible run in the future. He said if he finds serving in office is an opportunity to contribute at a much higher level or have a greater impact, he'll consider that.