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AFT President Randi Weingarten Heads to Alaska to Back Sen. Begich in Close Race

With less than a month before the mid-term elections, American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten is lending her politicking prowess to incumbent Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, who finds himself trailing Republican challenger Dan Sullivan in one of just a handful of Senate races that will determine which party controls the chamber come January.

The latest polling from CNN/ORC has Sullivan, a Lt. Col. in the Marine Corps Reserves and former state Attorney General, leading Begich by 6 points.

Republicans need to pick up at least six states currently controlled by Democrats in order to take the majority, and Alaska is looking more like a lock with each new poll. Sullivan has been widening his lead since late August when he first overtook Begich.  

On Saturday, Weingarten will urge state, city, and borough employees at the Alaska Public Employees Association's Biennial Caucus to vote in the upcoming Nov. 4 election as "a way to address the serious issues members face in the workplace every day."

The National Education Association has also been honing in on the Alaskan Senate race to help Begich rebound. In September, the teachers' union launched a TV ad buy featuring a middle school music teacher arguing that Sullivan cheated teachers out of their earned benefits.

While attorney general, Sullivan was tasked with settling a lawsuit to close a deficit in the state pension system. "Instead of recovering what could have been nearly $3 billion dollars," the teacher says in the ad, "he cut a deal for just pennies on the dollar."

The NEA ad came just days after Sullivan's campaign released a TV ad touting that exact settlement, which featured a seventh-grade teacher applauding Sullivan for securing her retirement fund.

Begich does not have a laundry list of legislative education accomplishments—he spends most of his time in Washington on appropriations, commerce, and veterans' and Indian affiars—but he did introduce the Investing in Innovation for Education Act, which seeks to continue the Obama administration's "i3" grant program. i3 promotes education initiatives with proven records of improving student success.

Begich is also a member of the Senate STEM Education Caucus—and he's getting some election help from the political action committee Democrats for Education Reform, which doesn't always see eye-to-eye with the AFT. 

Sullivan, meanwhile, is known more for his experience as the assistant secretary of the bureau of economic, energy and business affairs at the U.S Department of State and as a director on the National Security Council staff under former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. There is nothing on Sullivan's campaign web site about education issues.

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