Story last updated at 7:39 PM on Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Congratulations, Sen.-elect Begich

Congratulations to Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich, now U.S. Sen.-elect Mark Begich, for his victory over Ted Stevens. It was not an easy race, but Begich won in 25 of Alaska's 40 legislative districts, among them District 35, which includes Homer.

For many Alaskans, Begich's win, while well deserved, is bittersweet indeed. For 40 years, Ted Stevens, who turned 85 Tuesday, has shaped Alaska. He's the longest-serving Republican in U.S. Senate history. Across the state, he's known as "Uncle Ted" for the way his service has benefited virtually every nook and cranny of Alaska. His good works should not be forgotten and will continue to be enjoyed by future generations.

His defeat truly is the end of the era.

But certainly Stevens' conviction in October of all seven felony charges against him is reason enough for the era to end.

In this time of extraordinary change in the nation and state, Alaska will benefit from its bipartisan congressional delegation.

Both Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Congressman Don Young issued statements Wednesday congratulating Begich on his victory and expressing a desire to work with him. That's what needs to happen. The state and nation face critical problems that cannot be solved without people of all political persuasions working together. Our hope is with Begich's election to the Senate, Alaska's congressional delegation can set the example for what true bipartisanship can do.

Young, Murkowski and Begich can and should play key roles in the development of forward-thinking energy policies, affordable health care and sensible economic practices for the entire nation.

His job won't be easy, but Begich goes to Washington, D.C., with lots of credentials to recommend him, not the least of which he was born and raised in Alaska. He knows Alaska and Alaskans. He has a long history of municipal service, as he was first elected to the Anchorage Assembly in 1988 -- at the age of 26.

And as he prepares for his new position Begich showed on Wednesday he has his priorities in order: "tackling the energy crisis; improving the economy so Alaskans have the jobs to provide for their families; improving our schools so young Alaskans are fully prepared to advance; fixing our nation's health care system; (and) meeting the needs of our seniors and veterans."

Begich correctly noted: "The list is long and the challenges enormous."

The challenges will be lessened if all Alaskans pledge to work as a team. That doesn't mean we have to agree on every issue, but it does mean we should be respectful when we disagree and not give up on working together. Our disagreements can be used to forge great compromises. Everyone benefits when we give up our right to be right.

Sen.-elect Begich has his work cut out for him. He needs the help of all Alaskans. As he said Wednesday: "I especially want to acknowledge Senator Stevens and his supporters and ask them to work with us to unite Alaska behind a common cause -- fiercely fighting for Alaska families and our issues in Washington, D. C."

Again, congratulations Sen.-elect Begich. We're looking forward to a new era.