Tom Begich is an Alaska state senator representing Anchorage’s Senate District J. He is the older brother of Democratic candidate for governor Mark Begich. You can submit letters, op-eds and cartoons for consideration to The Midnight Sun editor, Matt Buxton at email@example.com.
By Tom Begich
You often hear tantalizing claims during campaigns that mischaracterize candidates. That’s politics. I get it. But there’s an ad paid for by the Alaska Republican Party running right now that is false, despicable and speaks to both a lack of integrity and the bankrupt and dishonest approach of the paid ads for Mike Dunleavy. The ad asserts Mark Begich, my brother, was born with a silver spoon. Really?
They know better. Here’s the real story.
Our grandfather on my dad’s side came to America as an immigrant. He worked as an itinerant: chopping wood, mining, odd jobs and even grew his own food. He was dirt poor and took the jobs no one else would.
Our grandfather on my mom’s side worked as a trainman on a railroad and was himself a child of immigrants. Working class. Both of them.
On both sides our mom and dad were the first children in their families to go to college. In my dad’s case, as the youngest child, the other children worked so he would not have a life in the mines.
Our dad, Nick Begich, got a teaching degree, and insisted that my mom go to college where, while raising us, she managed to get a teaching degree as well. Dad’s interest in politics made him a congressman by 38. He built his apartments with his own hands. I know. I was there. His neighbors helped. That’s why they are simple rectangles. Nothing fancy, just getting the job done—classic Alaska. When he died at 40 in a plane crash while serving the state, he left no will and my mom a widow with six young children.
Probate took half of what we had.
When our mom remarried two years later she lost her pension. In the end the only way we saved her finances was all of us pitching in – mostly Mark.
During those days mom never turned any of our friends away from our house. She let them stay if their own parents kicked them out. She fed them. She ensured we had a safe environment to grow up in regardless of what it cost her—and she did not have much. She lost that in her short and violent second marriage. One of our friends, Vince, lived there for three years after he was kicked out of his home. Other friends—Janelle, Margy (Vince’s sister) and others all lived there for a time. Mom never hesitated to make room because that’s what she did (I might add, the chair of the Alaska Republican Party knows this. He never hesitated to come over, eat at our table, and sleep in our house).
And that house? It was sold eventually because she couldn’t afford to keep it, and moved back to the apartments our dad built by the time I went out of state to college.
And Mark? He forwent college so that mom wouldn’t lose the apartments and even then, we had to sell all but the main building (They came back to us in the financial collapse of ’84 when the purchasers defaulted on their payment plan and returned them). Mark also made sure I went to college with that same attitude that my father’s siblings had—that we make good. I was the first of my siblings to go to college. Mark did that for me, just as he has continued to reach out to many others to offer opportunities.
Mark has always cared about the future. He started doing things to earn money and support our family from the time he was 14—jewelry making, selling gift items at fairs, developing a distribution business for those gift wares and working retail in gift shops. All because we weren’t sure what resources we would have or what the next day might bring.
So to see this ad saddens me. This hate-filled lying rhetoric that hits at the deepest and most personal level has destroyed the fabric of the country and now here it is aimed at our own family and state’s history. This must stop.