Senator Begich reaches out to campus voters
By Anessia Hubler
Sun Star reporter
“We wanted to make the young people’s voice heard, and encourage them to vote,” Sen. Mark Begich said.
The Rock Your Rights Consort Campaign staff had a registration table set up at the ballroom entrance so that attendees could either get registered or sign up for an absentee ballot.
“Voting rates are very low in Alaska, especially in the youth. With the last day to register to vote being Oct. 5, this was our last big push to encourage the youth not only to sign up and vote but maybe even vote early,” Thomas Allen, president of the UAF democrats said.
Not wanting be just another politician forcing a vote on students, Begich’s campaign brought pizza and local Alaskan bands Granddad, Annie Where The Sun Don’t Shine, and The Vocal Cords.
“I came for the pizza and to listen to the bands, I didn’t even know that this was about voting,” student Zach Atchley said.
Playing at a political campaign proved to be a fairly big step for the Alaskan bands who weren’t necessarily accustomed to playing at such important events.
“We are super excited. We play a mix of music that we all write ourselves, it’s like a big melting pot, and we hope everyone enjoys our music,” senior journalism student Annie Bartholomew said.
Begich also took a bit of time to answer individual questions that people had prepared for him.
“I came to ask Mark Begich some questions because he always has a good answer and thinks of solutions to things I never would,” student Ashley Von Borstel said.
One of the first subjects touched on was how Begich plans to help students of UAF pay for their tuition.
“I sponsored a bill that will help with financing loans at a lower cost,” Begich said.” I feel education is very important for everyone to have.”
Begich imparted that he also want’s young people to have the financial freedom to, “buy a house, to retire, or maybe even start a business.”
Begich one of only two current senators without an undergraduate degree.
“Everyone has certain sectors that happen in our lives and when I was ready to go to college I went for a year, then we had some family issues and I had to take care of my mother, brother and sisters,” he said. “I was not able to have the experience, but I made sure my mother retired early and my five brothers and sisters went on to higher education.”
The next topic of interest that came up during the discussion was minimum wage and it’s relation to Alaskan jobs. “ I support minimum wage,” stated Begich, who owns a small business with his wife. “We pay above minimum wage because its good for the economy; if I pay you more you’ll spend more in the economy.”
Begich feels that the true problem lies in the fact that we don’t have enough “Alaska grown” people entering jobs that require higher education.
“We need to let the educational system open up more options so we can have more home grown people in these jobs,” he said.
“One of my best benefits from this job is when people really show that they appreciate what you do; there was this one time I was camping out in the rain for three hours, wearing Toms that were soaked, and this older lady came up to me and was just so appreciative of what I was doing.”
Even though she works on the Begich campaign, this was actually the first time she had ever even met the man that plays such a big role in her life. “In the future I hope to go to DC and work there, but right now I have a job interview with Fairbanks Public Defence Office.”
Next on the discussion agenda was Begich’s voting opinion on the legality of Marijuana. Begich personally does not support legalization due to the fact that he has a twelve year old son back home.
“If the voters vote for it and it is done for medical use or personal possession, we do have to make sure if it’s passed by the state that it is protected by the states rights, because right now if it does pass the federal law still has a role in responsibility but the federal government needs to respect the states rights on it,” he said.
One of the last topics to come up was marriage equality.
“I believe that you do what you want with your body and I do what I want with mine,” Begich said. “It’s in the Alaska constitution and we are one of only two states that have this in our constitution.”
As a finale, Begich shared his plans and hopes for the future.
“Everyday I look at what I have in my life and know I’m very fortunate,” he said. “If I decided at one point, or an election decides, that I’m no longer doing this job I still will be very involved in my community, because this is the thing that is most important.”