Senate race offers no great options on either side

Anchorage Mayor and Democratic US Senate candidate Mark Begich looks great on paper. I mean, really great. He supports renewable energy, transparent government, clean elections, and accountability in education. He even crosses the party line when it comes to the issues that are important to Alaskans, such as resource development and gun ownership.

The campaign ads approved by Begich don’t show the slightest hint of dirty campaigning. They’re so soft, warm, and fuzzy that occasionally I’m caught wondering if I’m supposed to vote for Begich, his father, his son, or maybe even the family dog.

So why, when his opponent Sen. Ted Stevens is mired in controversy surrounding a serious and ongoing corruption trial, is Begich only barely ahead in the polls?

Surely part of Begich’s trouble is Stevens’ name cache. Stevens has been Alaska’s senator for a ridiculously long time – much longer than I’ve been alive. I was born in this state, and have never known anything but Stevens the Alaskan senator.

In fact, Stevens is the longest serving Republican in the senate, the second-most senior senator entirely. Stevens has been Alaska’s only senator for almost 90 percent of the state’s existence. When anything has been around for that long, you begin to merely accept it as a fixture – fireweed, forget-me-nots, and Ted Stevens.

To use a less friendly metaphor, Stevens has become that smell in your house that you no longer notice because you live there. You don’t seriously think about getting rid of the smell because most of the time, you aren’t even aware of its existence.

Then, the national media has to go and point out that your senator is smelly. Wait, did I lose my metaphor?

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At any rate, that brings me to another reason Stevens senate seat is still a competitive race – no one likes to be told that they have a stinky house. Your natural reaction to such a complaint isn’t anger directed at the smell, but at the people who had the audacity to so rudely point it out to you.

Still, both of these reasons are secondary to what I see as Begich’s critical failing – Begich is a jerk.

That’s right, I said it. I’m not mincing my words, either – and anyone who has the nerve to walk around with a grin that wide, acting like they’re God’s gift to politics, had better be able to take the criticism.

You might wonder why I would say such a thing about up and coming political wunderkind Begich. After all, everyone says he’s doing such a good job at running Anchorage.

Well, I’ll say the same thing about Begich’s budgeting skills that I’ve said about Palin – it’s fairly easy to meet the bottom line when it’s constantly ballooning in an oil-boom economy.

To put it another way, it’s easy to look at all the civic services that Begich has provided since taking office and ignore the fact that the budget for the city of Anchorage is now more than double what it was when he began. It wasn’t exactly small then, either – we’re talking hundreds of millions of dollars. I could probably impress a few people by throwing around that kind of change too.

What Begich has proven is that he’s really good at spending surplus. What I’d like to know is how much of these windfall profits were saved for a rainy day instead of used to inflate the city budget to an unsustainable level.

I realize, though, that poor money management does not speak to a person’s overall character; so you might still be wondering why I would resort to calling Mark Begich names.

Well, how about the fact that according to Republican smear website he has, in the distant past, evicted people from their homes on both Christmas Eve and the day after Thanksgiving?

The only thing ruder than kicking someone out of their home before they’ve even opened their Christmas presents is doing it after they’ve gorged themselves on Thanksgiving dinner. I know I don’t even want to think about moving after Thanksgiving.

Perhaps our mayor and senate hopeful should change his name to Be-grinch?

To cap it all off, I’ve saved perhaps the most vilifying character detail about Mark Begich for last. The action that’s earned him my vehement dislike is that – following an unfriendly column I wrote about him earlier this year – Begich denied my friend request on MySpace.

That’s why, quite literally, Mark Begich is not my friend.

Basically, I’m left with the choice of voting for Stevens or Begich to represent me in the Senate when I wouldn’t trust either one of them alone in a room with my wallet.

Perhaps I’ll abstain this year, or better yet, write-in. I hear great things about this Sarah Palin, maybe she’d be up to representing Alaska on the national level. She could probably use the experience.