ANCHORAGE — Alaska U.S. House candidate Alyse Galvin is frustrated because she says the incumbent in the race, who is also the longest-ever serving Republican in the House, has not agreed to participate in many debates or forums this fall.
There are two in-person debates scheduled this month between Galvin, an independent, and U.S. Don Young, her campaign said. They both will also appear virtually at a chamber forum in Fairbanks. Galvin’s campaign says Young has declined to attend four other events in the weeks leading to the Nov. 3 general election.
“He’s dodging. He’s ducking debates because he’s afraid to talk the issues that Alaskans really care about most,” Galvin said Thursday of her 87-year-old opponent who has been in office since 1973. “He can no longer deliver, and he can’t be bothered to show up.”
Young’s campaign manager, Truman Reed, disputed those numbers. “We are scheduled to participate in more than a half dozen debates/forums this month. Additionally, we’re meeting with Alaskans all across the state,” he said by email.
Reed did not respond to a follow-up request seeking details of those events, and there’s no calendar of events on Young’s campaign webpage.
Galvin said both candidates must be able to talk to Alaskans in the midst of the pandemic, especially with the economy in poor shape.
“This is about who can deliver the good jobs, who can lower health care costs, who can make sure that our education system isn’t crashing,” she said. “We need to get to the table. Alaskans need to hear from their representatives and their choices, simple as that.”
Reed said Young remains busy at work in Washington, working on bills important to Alaskans.
“Unlike his opponent, he doesn’t have the luxury of being able to campaign all day, every day,” Reed said.
He cited Young’s work on recent legislation involving hydropower, tribes, veterans, healthy oceans and murdered and missing indigenous women.
Reed also touted Young’s work on a permit signed by President Donald Trump this week for a proposed rail line connecting Alaska and Canada, which he says could create thousands of new jobs.
“Don is well respected in D.C., and this permit is the direct result of him utilizing his long-standing relationships to benefit Alaska,” Reed said.
One event Young skipped this year was a virtual forum last Saturday co-hosted by the Alaska Black Caucus and the NAACP, one that Galvin attended. Celeste Hodge Growden, the president and CEO of the Alaska Black Caucus, said it struck her as tone-deaf given the state of the world.
“As a Black person with the race issues in our country being at an all-time low, I think it’s important for candidates to learn about our issues and our concerns and when you don’t show, that sends a message that you just don’t care,” she said.
This is the second time Young is facing a challenge from Galvin, who lost to Young in 2018 by 7 percentage points. The last time the two met on a debate stage, they didn’t speak before or after the event. That was the fallout from the previous event when Galvin said Young tried to bully her by pressing her hand so hard, it hurt. “I don’t acknowledge her because very frankly, I don’t believe she can do the job, and why should I acknowledge somebody who tried to stage something for publicity?” Young told The Associated Press at the time.
When asked if she thought Young not participating in forums or debates was a continuation of that stance, Galvin replied: “I have no idea. I don’t want to rehash the drama of the 2018 election. This is about what we’re going to do for Alaskans in 2020.”
The most recent campaign disclosures filed with the Federal Election Commission predate the August primary; a new reporting deadline is approaching. As of July 29, Galvin had about $1.4 million on hand, compared with about $711,000 for Young.
In Alaska’s U.S. Senate race, the campaign of incumbent Republican Dan Sullivan last month announced plans to participate in four debates ahead of the general election. The campaign for Sullivan’s chief rival, independent Al Gross, said Gross will participate in three of those. Gross, like Galvin, is a nonpartisan who won the Democratic nomination in their respective races. Independent is a term often used in Alaska to refer to those registered as nonpartisan or undeclared; Alaskans registered as such outnumber those registered with one of the three recognized political parties in the state — Republicans, Democrats and the Alaskan Independence Party.