At the age of 81, Alaska Congressman Don Young, is seeking a 22nd term in the United States House of Representatives and spent a number of days on Kodiak Island last week on a campaign swing.
Currently in his 42nd year of service, Young was first sent to Washington after winning a special election after his general election opponent disappeared on a plane flight.
“You know it’s an amazing thing. It just seems like yesterdaythat I was running in a special election against… well, actually the election against Nick Begich. October the 16th he went out and had an airplane wreck and we never did find him. And he beat me. And then of course I got elected to a special .. well, not of course – it was a close race … in the special election in March 7th of 73. And then got sworn into office March 14th and I’ve been there ever since.”
Nick Begich is the father of current U.S. Senator Mark Begich, who is seeking re-election this year:
“Oh I think Mark has done a good job. I think some of his votes were wrong. But again I’ve known him since he was 10 years old and watched his growth. Everybody has to make up his own decision how they’d vote and not vote.”
Though he is the longest-serving Republican in Congress, his critics say that several controversies have limited his effectiveness despite his tenure. Young says that seniority is still a rare and valuable thing.
“Of course my opponent says it doesn’t, but it does. It’s not just about committee chairmanships. I’ll be the first one to tell you the chances of my getting another chairmanship out of a full committee is very unlikely. But it is … I have communications with both sides of the aisle, of a lot of existing chairmen, a lot of former chairmen. And I have a network that nobody else can get. It takes time. And this is the way the political system works. Everybody, not everybody, they run against me, they say, ‘well he doesn’t have any clout any more.’ Well they don’t have any clout period.”
Young said he would step aside and endorse a like-minded young candidate if they would commit to staying in the U.S. House for 25-years, which is how long he says it takes to build up the kind of clout it takes to be effective.
Young faces three Republican challengers in the primary: John Cox, David Dohner and David Seaward. The winner will take on the victor of the Democratic primary, which is being contested by perennial candidate Frank Vondersaar and frontrunner Forrest Dunbar.
Young Says He Still Has Clout in Congress