Alaska Democratic Sen. Mark Begich is taking on a fellow Democrat from the other side of the country, Massachusetts Rep. Edward Markey, attacking him in a letter Friday as a “national Democrat” who is trying to inappropriately apply his cultural values to a different part of the country.
The issue revolves around the community of King Cove, Alaska which is fighting for the right to build a one-lane road to the neighboring city of Cold Bay, to give them access to the commercial airport and emergency medical services.
The area has been designated the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge, however, and environmental studies have suggested that building the road could have harmful environmental consequences for the habitat, and so the residents have not been permitted to build the road. Begich has been an advocate for the residents, urging the Interior Department to consider the human factors as well as the environmental factors.
In his Wednesday letter to Salazar, Markey, the dean of the Massachusetts delegation who is running to fill John Kerry’s open Senate seat, took the opposite position.
“We must continue to protect our nation’s most beautiful and precious wilderness. Not construct an unreliable and potentially dangerous road through the heart of it,” Markey said in the letter.
Begich expressed his displeasure with Markey’s involvement in his letter Friday.
“I write to register great frustration with your March 6 letter to Secretary Ken Salazar about the plight of a small number of rural Alaskans in my state who are being denied access to basic life and safety needs because of federal ignorance of our way of life,” Begich began and went on to slam Markey for involving himself in a matter about which he is not fully informed, and for not seeking out further information on the topic before writing the letter.
“I’m especially irritated you didn’t bother to reach out to me and try to gain a real understanding of the dire situation facing residents of King Cove, Alaska,” Begich added.
Begich attacked Markey for lacking an understanding of the way of life in the areas in which he was involved.
“Your letter is typical of those from national Democrats who fail to understand the needs of Americans who live in the West, especially in some of the most remote and extreme parts of our nation such as Alaska,” Begich wrote.
“In the future,” he concluded, “I would welcome the opportunity to meet with you and discuss the unique challenges facing residents of my state so you can better understand that East Coast values just don’t apply.”
Begich is up for re-election in 2014 in a red-leaning state, and is considered to be vulnerable to a Republican challenge. He has billed himself as a senator who is an Alaskan first and a Democrat second. His campaign website declares him “As Independent As Alaska.” His attacks on Markey, who is running in a competitive Democratic primary in a left-leaning state, as a “national Democrat” only serves to further that image.
“It’s not shocking that just as it’s time to face voters in Alaska, Mark Begich is trying to hide his liberal record by pointing out what everybody else already knows, Ed Markey is a radical extremist. Mark Begich can’t fool voters in Alaska with his letter, even if he happens to be correct,” said National Republican Senatorial Committee Communications Director Brad Dayspring. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee declined to comment.
“Congressman Markey looks forward to discussing this matter with Senator Begich,” emailed Markey spokesman Eben Burnham-Snyder in response.