Begich spokeswoman takes blame for misstatement

JUNEAU — A spokeswoman for U.S. Sen. Mark Begich said Thursday that she misspoke when she said he missed a vote in Washington because he was traveling to the capital when, in fact, he was in Hawaii.

 

The Associated Press asked spokeswoman Heather Handyside by email Tuesday why the Alaska Democrat hadn’t voted on whether to proceed to debate on a renewal of benefits for the long-term unemployed. Handyside responded by email that he “wasn’t there. Is on his way back to D.C.”

The vote was close, with six Republicans, including Alaska’s senior senator, Lisa Murkowski, voting with Democrats to advance to debate. Begich was one of three members, and the only Democrat, shown as not voting.

The Hill reported Thursday that Begich missed the vote to deliver a speech Wednesday at a conference in Hawaii hosted by the American Association of Airport Executives.

Handyside said Thursday that she had not seen the speech on Begich’s calendar, though she said she thought it was planned quite a while ago. She said she was under the impression he would be back in Washington on Wednesday when she responded to the AP.

She said Begich returned to Washington late Wednesday night.

Handyside said Begich had first gone to Hawaii to vacation with his family. In addition to the conference, she said he also met with Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie and had two fundraisers that she knew of. Alaska and Hawaii have a sister-state-like relationship, dating back to days of then-U.S. Sens. Ted Stevens of Alaska and Daniel Inouye of Hawaii.

Begich campaign manager Susanne Fleek-Green said by email Thursday that the trip was paid for by Begich personally and by his campaign, Alaskans for Begich.

Begich, a first-term Democrat, is expected to face a tough re-election fight this year. Republicans have said they view the Alaska seat as key to their efforts to try to win back control of the Senate.

Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell, former state Natural Resources Commissioner Dan Sullivan and Joe Miller are the highest-profile Republican candidates seeking the GOP nomination to challenge Begich.

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