TOM BEGICH: A silver spoon? Here’s the real story.

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 matt@midnightsunak.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.

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9 Comments on "TOM BEGICH: A silver spoon? Here’s the real story."

  1. Well done.

  2. Kathleen Pearson | November 2, 2018 at 5:12 pm | Reply

    Thanks for setting the record straight. I am biting my tongue trying not to say what I would really like to say about how disgusting I find the Republican Party to be!

  3. Kathy Jorgensen Hodges | November 2, 2018 at 9:45 pm | Reply

    This is true. My deceased friend, Jan Ackerman, who later took her grandmother’s name, Fiona Caitlin’s, was friends with your mom and I heard these same facts. I never knew your family directly. Kathy Jorgensen Hodges

  4. Beautiful family and thank you for sharing you family story. I admire you mother as my mother lost her husband at a very young age and raised six children with dignity and love. Voting Mark Begich!

  5. Elstun Lauesen | November 3, 2018 at 3:25 pm | Reply

    I remember your Dad. I voted for him. Yeh, I’m that old. I was an officer in the Young Democrats when I met him. Travelers Inn in Fairbanks. Good handshake, eye contact, passionate about our new State. I campaigned for your Mom as well. That DNA of passion for our State and fighting for the little guy (& gal) through all you kids! Best Regards.

  6. Patricia E Chitty | November 4, 2018 at 12:09 pm | Reply

    I have not always agreed with Mark Begich over politics and his Senate positions and Votes when he was there;however,I know from knowing the family and from working with their Scholarship Foundation that no one in that family was born with a silver spoon nor would their Mother ever have tolerated any behavior associated with this attitude. The Republicans have the Right to campaign and make statements but they do not have the right to lie. Take a look at the lifelong community involvement of the Begich Family wherever they have lived,in DC or AK. Those are FACTS. When the Republicans have to lie, they are in BIG trouble.

  7. So Tuckerman Babcock knew how tough you guys all had it and still either endorsed this ad or at the least did nothing to stop it? Just when you think the GOP can sink no lower, they always seem to find a deeper hole.

  8. The Republican ad was so poorly done it named the wrong song title. It should be Fortunate Son. Thanks for sharing your family story; sorry they don’t get it and want to slam all of you.

  9. Robert K Larsen | November 5, 2018 at 12:12 pm | Reply

    You offer hope to those of us who feel such despair on seeing those adds. Thanks for all you and your family have done and continue to do.

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