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Will Stevens’s ouster be good for Alaska?

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Some here, though, say the days of bellying up to the federal trough are probably waning anyway, courtesy of the national economic crisis.

“Alaskans have got to be prepared now to not receive that largess from the federal government that we’re all kind of used to getting,” Gov. Sarah Palin, the former GOP vice presidential candidate, said here Nov. 19. “That’s reality.”

Senator-elect Begich and his supporters, however, suggest he will be able to achieve some things that Stevens could not. Chief among those is to reach the long-desired Alaska goal of opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to oil drilling.

“Senator Stevens couldn’t even get into the doors of the environmental community because there was no communication,” Begich said at a Nov. 19 press conference. “I’ve always gone into groups that may agree with me, may not agree with me, but I’m always going to sit with them. And that’s a huge difference that did not exist for many years on the issue of ANWR.” Having an Alaska Democrat in the caucus for the first time since Mike Gravel left the Senate in 1981 will help promote the pro-development message, he said.

Begich said, too, that he hopes to remake the state’s image as corrupt and greedy, and to start telling the “broader story of who we are,” he said. That means better explaining Alaska’s circumstances, such as the challenges of providing healthcare, and showing how the No Child Left Behind Act is unworkable in rural Alaska.

It seems clear that Begich will not be a cookie-cutter Democrat.

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