ANCHORAGE — Alaska voters have given the longest serving Republican in the U.S. House of Representatives more years in office.
Rep. Don Young, who was first elected in a special election in 1973, won his 23rd term in Tuesday’s election, dispatching the 19th Democrat trying to unseat him (some tried twice over the years).
The latest to make an attempt was Steve Lindbeck, a former newspaperman. He says the years of service the 83-year-old congressman has given to the state should be celebrated, but it’s time for new blood.
Young has long touted his years of experience as a boon for Alaska, saying it’s important for the state’s only congressman to build up seniority.
Jeanette O’Brien, 72, a longtime Seward resident who now lives in Anchorage, voted enthusiastically for Don Young.
“I have voted for Don Young ever since I’ve been in Alaska,” she said. “He’s never steered us wrong yet. Oh, he’s a politician. He’s been in there forever. But as far as I’m concerned, I’m going to keep him in there forever.”
But others saw that longevity as a negative.
Crystal Tyone, a 34-year-old Anchorage personal care giver who is Tlingit and Athabascan, said she’s just “tired of Don.”
“He’s very negative,” Tyone said, adding that she cast her vote for Lindbeck because she was “looking for something different.”
Chris Vance, a 58-year-old contract specialist for the U.S. Air Force, also said it was time for a change.
“He’s been in Washington forever and he’s got exactly no seniority,” Vance said of Young.
Young has 79 bills with his name on them that have moved out the House since he was elected in 1973. But Lindbeck has countered that Young should have done more for the state, especially because the Republicans have controlled Congress for much of the last 20 years.
During one debate this year, Lindbeck said Young could have done more to get the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge opened to oil drilling.
Young countered he got the bill passed out of the House 12 times, only to see it die in the Senate 11 times. The one time both chambers passed the bill, President Bill Clinton vetoed it in 1995.
Young was born June 9, 1933, on a family farm in Meridian, California. He earned college degrees and moved to Alaska in 1959 to be a teacher at a Bureau of Indian Affairs school.
He was elected mayor of Fort Yukon in 1964 before serving two terms in the state House. Young was elected to the state Senate in 1970 and unsuccessfully challenged U.S. Rep. Nick Begich, D-Alaska, in 1972. Begich won even though he was on a plane that went missing three weeks before the election. After he was declared dead, Young won the special election for the congressional seat.
Lindbeck, 61, came to Alaska in 1964 when he was 9 when his father, a Pearl Harbor survivor, was stationed at the old Navy base in Kodiak.
Over the years, he was a sports editor at the defunct Anchorage Times and an associate editor at the former Anchorage Daily News.
His biography says he became the CEO of Alaska Public Media in 2007, inheriting a $2 million deficit. When he left the job eight years later, there was a $3 million surplus.
Associated Press writer Dan Joling contributed to this report.