What others say: Mark Begich for Interior Secretary

  • Wednesday, September 28, 2016 4:39pm
  • Opinion

We heard last week that some Alaskans — including some here in Juneau — are asking Mark Begich to launch a write-in campaign for U.S. Senate.

We’d like them to think bigger. We’d like him to be Secretary of the Interior.

Now, we know that’s out of our hands to a large extent. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump pick their cabinet members. Interior Secretary isn’t an elected position, but we know Begich can make sure he’s available and prepared for the job.

If you think about it, it’s a perfect job for him, and it’d be good for Alaska.

Now, the polls indicate Clinton is likely to win in November, but if things go the another way, we’d still like to see an Alaskan — someone like Sean Parnell, perhaps — in the seat. For better or worse, however, no one is talking about Parnell. They are talking about Begich, who has shown up in stories handicapping Hillary Clinton’s prospective cabinet.

Right now, Lisa Murkowski is chairwoman of the Senate’s energy and natural resources committee, which guides the Department of the Interior’s actions. She’s also chairwoman of the subcommittee that controls the department’s budget.

Having an Alaskan in charge of the department would be a big deal — the 49th state would be in a unique position to guide its destiny at the federal level.

That’s a big deal, especially now. In the next year, we’re going to see Alaska Native tribes put land into trust for the first time. We’re going to see the state face continued challenges over oil drilling, climate change, land ownership, and pretty much everything associated with the Arctic.

We can’t think of anyone better for the job than someone from Alaska.

There’s already four mainstream candidates for this year’s Senate seat (alongside a host of smaller stars in that constellation). Begich would be the fifth mainstream candidate and he would run at a huge disadvantage.

When it comes to the role of Interior Secretary, the opposite is true. That job has traditionally gone to someone from the West, where the federal government owns the majority of the land.

The rumored frontrunner for the job, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, told Politico about a month ago that “I would say it’s pretty unlikely that I would take a cabinet position, to be pretty blunt.”

There’s other candidates out there, including Mark Udall, the former U.S. Senator from Colorado, and David Hayes, a former Interior Department official; but an Alaskan is a better fit.

Begich has the federal background, the history in Alaska, and he knows the issues that are important here. Forget the U.S. Senate: We need an Alaskan on the job.

— Juneau Empire, Sept. 22

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