Alyse Galvin (right), a candidate for Alaska’s sole U.S. House of Representatives seat, speaks with Soldotna-area resident Bonnie Bernard during a meet-and-greet hosted by community coalition Many Voices at the Soldotna Public Library on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018 in Soldotna, Alaska. Galvin is one of two candidates challenging incumbent Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) for the seat. (Photo by Elizabeth Earl/Peninsula Clarion)

Alyse Galvin (right), a candidate for Alaska’s sole U.S. House of Representatives seat, speaks with Soldotna-area resident Bonnie Bernard during a meet-and-greet hosted by community coalition Many Voices at the Soldotna Public Library on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018 in Soldotna, Alaska. Galvin is one of two candidates challenging incumbent Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) for the seat. (Photo by Elizabeth Earl/Peninsula Clarion)

2 challenge Young for House seat

Two candidates have thrown their hats into the ring so far to claim the U.S. House of Representatives seat from Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska).

Young, who has served in Congress since 1973, usually wins the biennial contests to keep the seat by large margins. In the 2016 general election, Young won by 14 percent over the next candidate, and by 10 percent in the 2014 general election. For the last two decades, Young has decisively won his reelection bids every two years.

But it doesn’t dissuade candidates from trying. Anchorage resident Alyse Galvin has registered as an Independent candidate for the race, saying her strategy to beat Young is “to work really hard.”

“I appreciate that people think this is hard,” she said. “…But I think we’re a in a different place than we have been.”

She said she decided to run in part because of the increased polarity in national politics and because things aren’t getting done in Congress. A year ago, she wouldn’t have conceived of running, she said.

Young has long been an advocate of less federal control in Alaska, promoting oil and gas exploration and other resource extraction industries. He has staunchly opposed gun control measures and favored state control of cannabis regulations, sitting on the Congressional Cannabis Caucus. He is also notorious for tough comments and is currently the longest-serving member of the House of Representatives.

Galvin’s primary experience is in public education advocacy through Great Alaska Schools, a coalition advocating for increased public education funding. She’s running as a registered Independent but is planning to run in the Democratic Party primary on August 21.

Her ability to do so hinges on a lawsuit currently pending before the Alaska Supreme Court. The Alaska Democratic Party sued the state in July 2017, seeking for Independents to be allowed to run in the Democratic Party’s primary. The state Superior Court ruled in favor of the Alaska Democratic Party in October, and the state has appealed to the Superior Court. An oral argument for the case is currently scheduled for March 29, according to the state appellate court calendar.

Anchorage resident Dimitri Shein is vying for the Democratic Party nomination in the U.S. House of Representatives race as well. Shein wrote on his website that he is running because he was tired of watching “establishment politicians run on the platform of ‘I am not Don Young.’” A Russian immigrant and businessman in Anchorage, Shein is focused on a platform of a single-payer health care system meant to make health insurance more affordable for everyone, which he calls Medicare for All.

He and Galvin share a number of political opinions. Galvin said she is in favor of allowing health care providers to work on a more efficient, cheaper system and mentioned that she’d like to see wellness programs like the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium’s Nuka System, which focuses on holistic wellness. She said she saw the federal government’s role as facilitating medical professionals to work together toward a better system.

“It sure makes sense to me to look at where we have award-wining health care delivery right now, which is also being delivered at just over half the cost of you and me if you’re on Premera Blue Cross (Blue Shield, Alaska’s only individual market health insurance provider),” she said. “…There is an opportunity for us to look at that, think about scaling it up.”

Shein and Galvin also have similar positions on natural resource development. Shein wrote on his website that he believes in fossil fuel-driven climate change and would work to strengthen the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency staffed by scientists and would support the development of renewable energy. Galvin said she supports the development of renewable energy in Alaska, recognizing fossil fuel-driven climate change, but said she recognized the need to transition gradually off oil.

She said she would work on a balance between environmental safety — keeping oil and gas exploration on land, for example, she said — and including local input on development.

“We develop oil safely right now on land — we’re doing that well,” she said. “…We all want cheaper energy, but we don’t want to mess with our fishing streams.”

Both also said they support additional federal support for alleviating the ongoing opioid crisis. Galvin said at the meet and greet that she saw it as a national security issue and “would have whatever conversation it takes” to secure extra funding for more treatment beds and programs in Alaska.

Galvin said she estimated it would take about $1.4 million in campaign funds to defeat Young. A search on the Federal Election Commission’s campaign finance database did not turn up any results for her campaign spending as of Saturday.

Shein had raised about $45,692 and spent about $6,456 as of Saturday. Young had raised $491,393 and spent $277,465, with $483,654 on hand, according to the Federal Election Commission.

Reach Elizabeth Earl at elizabeth.earl@peninsulaclarion.com.

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