Sunday afternoon, Sen. Mark Begich’s re-election campaign trail took him to the Mountain View Library for a town hall meeting with a friendly crowd.
Topics ranged from education to employment to the Democrat senator’s record on fisheries and diversity-related issues, and about three dozen people filled the library’s multipurpose room for the event. Many of them wore Begich campaign buttons and stickers, and the crowd broke into applause several times throughout the hour-long meeting.
“You have probably been inundated with advertising, probably worn down by the advertising,” Begich told his audience. “This latest round that they have is just beating on me about when I was mayor.”
Most of the crowd at Sunday’s town hall seemed unswayed by any such advertising.
“I think most of us are astute enough to sift through the political minutiae,” said Theresa Guim, who was the first to take the microphone during the meeting’s question-and-answer period.
“When you were mayor, there was at least — to me — an advocate for the African-American community,” she said. “I’m not seeing that; I’m not seeing that now with our current situation.”
Guim told the senator that she’s a professional with a degree who’s struggled to find a job in Anchorage, despite a “stellar resume.” She was bothered by the lack of diversity in campaign rhetoric.
“I haven’t heard anything about jobs for African-Americans,” Guim said.
Colette Victor, an Anchorage School District employee, asked Begich about his stance on the federal No Child Left Behind legislation.
“I really don’t know exactly, specifically what it is, but I see it’s not working and I wanted to get your thoughts on that, and where you would like to see it go,” she said.
Begich said he’d like to see NCLB scrapped; condemning it for inflexible standards. He went on to advocate for expanded educational opportunities, including vocational and technical training. The crowd applauded.
“We don’t spend enough time recognizing that not every kid is going to go on to a four-year degree,” he said.
After the meeting, Government Hill resident Habib Azimi said he was a lifelong Democrat concerned about education and the justice system. He said he believes the next president in the White House will be a Democrat, and he believes Begich will win Alaska’s U.S. Senate race.
“From the first day that I knew Mr. Begich, I believed in him,” said Azimi, who wore a blue campaign pin and brought his wife and friend to the town hall. “Nothing is more strong than you believing in something.”