Sen. Begich: Obama's Campaign Advice on Obamacare 'Irrelevant'

Image: Sen. Begich: Obama's Campaign Advice on Obamacare 'Irrelevant'

Friday, 02 May 2014 01:13 PM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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Sen. Mark Begich says he won't be taking President Barack Obama's advice about not being defensive about Obamacare in his re-election campaign, saying his advice is "irrelevant" and he instead plans to concentrate on what Alaskans care about.

"That's not how I campaign," the Alaska Democrat told Real Clear Politics of Obama's advice to not be defensive or apologize about Obamacare.

Begich joined his Democratic colleagues in voting for Obamacare in 2009, but now says the law is "not perfect" and "needs to be worked on." While he says he does believe Obamacare is better than what existed previously, he's also been introducing many potential fixes in the Senate.

"We can’t go back to the days when 34 percent of individually insured Alaskans were denied coverage," he said. But he's also not focusing on Obamacare in his campaign. For example, his campaign website does not list healthcare issues among his priorities.

And even though the pro-Begich super PAC Put Alaska First features a breast cancer survivor who thanks the senator for fighting insurance companies, none of his first four advertisements mentions Obamacare.

Begich also seems to be pushing away from the president in other ways.

"If he’s coming to Alaska at any point, I don’t need him to campaign for me," Begich said of the president. "What I need him to do is see the areas of issues he and I disagree on, so I can convince him otherwise."

Begich disagrees with Obama on the cost of living on military bases, rural education, and oil and gas development issues.

He does agree with Obama on abortion rights, however, a surprising move for a Democrat running in a red state.

Alaska voters, though, according to polls, generally lean toward Begich's position on abortion rights, and he said he is in line with the constituents he hopes to continue representing.

"One thing that hasn’t changed is we’re very libertarian when it comes to some of these issues, and we don’t believe that government should be interfering in our personal and private lives," Begich said. "No one is for abortion, but giving choice is very important, and I think it’s important the differences be made clear."

Begich, who serves on the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee, was first was elected in 2008, defeating 40-year veteran Ted Stevens by fewer than 4,000 votes after the senator was convicted on felony charges.

Stevens' conviction by a Washington, D.C., jury was eventually thrown out on the grounds of prosecutorial misconduct after the Justice Department said prosecutors withheld evidence that would have cleared him. Stevens died in a plane crash in 2010.

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