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Donald Edwin "Don" Young (born June 9, 1933) has been the sole Representative from Alaskamarker in the United States House of Representatives since 1973. He is a Republican. Currently Young is the 7th most senior U.S. Representative and the 2nd most senior Republican Representative, as well as the 2nd most senior Republican in Congress as a whole. Upon the defeat of Senator Ted Stevens, Young became longest-serving member of the Alaska congressional delegation. Young announced in June 2009 that he would run again in 2010.

Early life

Young was born in Meridian, California. He earned an associate's degree in education from Yuba College in 1952 and a bachelor's degree from Chico State Collegemarker in 1958. He served in the Army from 1955 to 1957.

Young moved to Alaska in 1959, not long after it became a state. He eventually settled in Fort Yukonmarker, a 700-person city on the Yukon Rivermarker, seven miles (11 km) above the Arctic Circle in Alaska’s central interior region. He made a living in construction, fishing, trapping and gold mining. He captained a tugboat and ran a barge operation to deliver products and supplies to villages along the Yukon River. He still holds his mariner's license today. During the winter, he taught fifth grade at the local Bureau of Indian Affairs elementary school.

Young was married to the former Lula Fredson, an indigenous Gwich'in. She volunteered her time serving as the manager of her husband's Washington, D.C.marker Congressional office. They have two daughters. The Youngs are Episcopalians. Lula passed away Saturday, August 1, 2009, she was 67.

Political career and background

Young began his political career in 1964 when he was elected mayor of Fort Yukon. After only one term, he was elected to the Alaska House of Representatives and served two terms before being elected to the Alaska Senate in 1970.

Earlier photo of Don Young
Oil on canvas, Charlen J.
Satrom, 1996 Collection of the U.S.
House of Representatives
Alaska's at-large congressman, Democrat Nick Begich, disappeared in a plane crash on October 16, 1972. He was reelected to the House that November, but was declared dead on December 29. Young, who had been the Republican candidate against Begich in November, ran in the special election in March 1973 and won, just barely defeating Democrat Emil Notti. He won a full term in 1974 in another close election, which he credits to his leadership of the fight for the Trans-Alaskan Pipeline Systemmarker, and did not face another serious opponent until 1990. That year, John Devens, the mayor of Valdezmarker, nearly defeated him. Devens ran another close race against Young in 1992, but Young was reelected in 1994 with 57 percent of the vote. He did not face another serious contest again until 2006, when he defeated Diane Benson 56%-42%. Though he was never expected to lose the election, his margin of victory came as a surprise. Two years earlier, Young had been reelected with 72% of the vote, the largest margin ever for a single candidate in a statewide election in Alaska.

Young is the 7th-longest serving House member, and the 2nd most senior Republican (ranked only by Bill Young of Floridamarker). Due to his long tenure in the House and that of former Senator Ted Stevens, Alaska is considered to have clout in national politics far beyond its small population (it has long been one of the smallest states in population and is currently 47th, ahead of only North Dakotamarker, Vermontmarker, and Wyomingmarker). He is often called "Alaska's third senator." Young chaired the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee from 2001 to 2007. He also chaired the Resources Committee from the 1995 Republican takeover of the House until 2001.

Recent votes and statements

Young currently serves as the Republican minority's Ranking Member on the Resources Committee. His voting record is relatively moderate by Republican standards; he has a lifetime rating of 77 from the American Conservative Union. He most often crosses lines on issues affecting labor. He was one of a small number of Republicans to vote against the Teamwork for Employees and Managers Act of 1995, some free trade agreements, and was one of only 13 Republican congressmen to vote for the Employee Free Choice Act in 2007. His voting record is pro-life and pro-gun, but he was also among the Republicans to vote in favor of more federal funds for stem cell research and voted against the reauthorization of the Patriot Act. However, he is best known for his vigorous opposition to federal control of Alaska's land and resources. He is also a strong proponent of opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refugemarker to oil drilling.

In July 2007, fellow Republican Congressman Scott Garrett of New Jerseymarker proposed an amendment to strike money in a spending bill for native Alaskan and Hawaiian educational programs. Young defended the funds on the floor of the House, stating that "You want my money, my money." Young also stated that "Those who bite me will be bitten back." Young went on to suggest that conservative Republicans such as Garrett lost the Republicans their majority in the 2006 election by challenging spending earmarks, and made several critical remarks about the state of New Jersey. While Garrett did not ask for an official reprimand, other conservative Republicans took exception to Young's remarks that the funds in question represented his money. Members of the conservative Republican Study Committee gave Garrett a standing ovation later in the day during the group's weekly meeting, and Virginia Foxx of North Carolina compared Young's earmarks to "legal theft."

According to The New Republic, Young is "well-known for his sharp elbows and generous appetite for legislative pork." His reputation for steering federal dollars to Alaska is almost as legendary as that of Stevens. For example, in the 2005 Highway Bill, Young helped secure "$941 million for 119 special projects," including a $231 million bridge in Anchoragemarker that a rider in the bill would name for Young himself.

He was listed as the third-worst congressman by the popular magazine Rolling Stone, and dubbed "Mr. Pork" due to his involvement in the Gravina Islandmarker "Bridge to Nowhere" incident. In the article, Young is quoted as saying that "Environmentalists are a self-centered bunch of waffle-stomping, Harvardmarker-graduating, intellectual idiots" who "are not Americans, never have been Americans, never will be Americans." During a debate on native Alaskans right to sell sex organs of endangered animals for the purpose of aphrodisiacs, he pulled out an eighteen-inch penis bone of a walrus and brandished it like a sword on the House floor.



When John McCain asked Young to give up money earmarked for Alaska to help the rebuilding effort from Hurricane Katrina, Young replied that Katrina victims "can kiss my ear!"

"Bridge to Nowhere"

In 2005, Young and Stevens earmarked $223 million for building the enormous Gravina Island Bridgemarker from Ketchikanmarker to Gravina Islandmarker, which also contains Ketchikan's airport. The bridge would be used for access by emergency vehicles, as well as passengers. Currently there is a small car and passenger ferry that travels the 1/4 mile (400 m) crossing in 3 to 7 minutes and runs every half hour. Critics assailed this as pork barrel spending at taxpayers' expense and dubbed it the "Bridge to Nowhere." After criticism from citizens and others in Congress, lawmakers defunded the bridge specifically, and instead funneled the money to the State of Alaska, Department of Transportation, allowing the Governor of Alaska to start road construction after the Alaska Legislature funded the project with the directed monies.

Another bridge earmarked in the bill connects Anchorage to Point Mackenzie, a lightly populated area in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough that is situated less than four miles across Cook Inletmarker from downtown Anchorage. Currently, Anchorage is accessible from Point Mackenzie only by an 80-mile route around Knik Armmarker, much of which is an unimproved road. It is currently unlikely that the bridge will be built; if it were, it would enhance the value of property in which Mr. Young's son-in-law owns an interest.

Abramoff scandal

Published reports have linked Young to the Jack Abramoff Indian lobbying scandal, although no wrongdoing has been alleged. In September 2002 Young and fellow Republican Steve LaTourette of Ohio wrote to the General Services Administration urging the agency to give preferential treatment to groups such as Indian tribes when evaluating development proposals. In particular, the letter referred to a historic building, the Old Post Office Pavilionmarker in downtown Washington, D.C.marker

Coconut Road

In 2006, Young added to a transportation bill a $10 million earmark for the construction of an interstate interchange for a short stretch of road (known as "Coconut Road") near Fort Myers, Floridamarker. Some puzzled why a congressman from Alaska would earmark for a little road in Florida that the local community opposed. A June 2007 article in the New York Times reported that a local real estate developer, Daniel J. Aronoff, who owns 4,000 acres (16 km²) along the road helped raise $40,000 for Young shortly before the earmark was inserted. Young's spokeswoman Meredith Kenny initially said that the local Republican congressman, Connie Mack, had requested the funding; in fact, both Mack and local Republican politicians opposed the funding.

In August 2007, the Naples Daily News reported that the words "Coconut Road interchange" were not in the federal transportation bill as it was approved by Congress. Instead, the words were added after the votes in the House and Senate, but before President Bush signed the bill. The original language for the $10 million earmark specified it was for widening of and improvements to Interstate 75. The language within the earmark was changed during a process called "bill enrollment," when technical corrections such as changes in punctuation are made to legislation before it is sent to the President.

In April 2008, top Senate Democrats and Republicans supported asking the Justice Department for a criminal investigation of the $10 million earmark. Young's staff acknowledged that aides "corrected" the earmark just before it went to the White House for President Bush's signature, specifying that the money would go to the proposed highway interchange project. Young said that the project was entirely worthy of an earmark and that he welcomed any inquiry, a spokeswoman said. Young's office said that presentations made by Florida Gulf Coast Universitymarker officials and the developers proved the case for the project.

Federal investigation

On July 24, 2007, the Wall Street Journal reported that Young was under federal investigation for possibly taking bribes, illegal gratuities or unreported gifts from VECO Corporation, an Anchorage-based company. The top two executives of that company have already pleaded guilty to bribing members of the Alaska legislature. The Journal said a Veco executive held fundraisers called "the Pig Roast" for Young every August for ten years. Between 1996 and 2006, Young received $157,000 from Veco employees and its political action committee. In the first half of 2007, Young spent more than $250,000 of campaign contributions for legal fees.

A confession signed by Bill Allen, the former chief of Veco, was released in October 2009. Allen agreed that from 1993 to August 2006, both he and his deputy at Veco, Rick Smith, "provided things of value to United States Representative A," a reference to Young. For example, in June 2006, "Smith obtained a set of golf clubs, costing approximately $1,000, that Smith gave to United States Representative A. Smith used Allen's credit card." Although Young was obligated in 2006 to report gifts with a value of more than $335, he didn't report receiving any gifts on the personal financial disclosure form he filed with the House of Representatives for that year.

2008 re-election campaign

Republican primary

In light of many of the controversies, incumbent Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell announced he would run against Young in the August 26, 2008 Republican primary. Parnell was strongly supported by Gov. Sarah Palin, the Club for Growth, and many other organizations that opposed what they viewed to be corrupt behavior by Young. This was the first primary since he was first elected in which Young faced a strong challenge.

Young received the endorsement of Mike Huckabee's political action committee, Huck PAC, in June 2008. After a storm of negative reaction, Huckabee explained on the Huck PAC blog that the endorsement was due in part to Young's endorsement and steadfast support of Huckabee during the 2008 Republican presidential primaries.

Final results on September 18 showed Young winning by 304 votes (0.28%), and Parnell announced that he would not seek a recount.Prior to the announcement of the unofficial results, both candidates had said that they would request a recount if they lost.The state of Alaska pays the costs of recounts when the difference is within a half percent, as it was in this primary election.

Alaska's At-large congressional district: Results 1972–2006
Year Republican Votes Pct Democrat Votes Pct Third Party Votes Pct Third Party Votes Pct Third Party Votes Pct Write-in votes Write-in %
1972 41,750 53,651
1974 51,641 44,280
1976 83,722 34,194 292
1978 68,811 55,176 200
1980 114,089 39,922 607
1982 128,274 52,011 799
1984 113,582 86,052 6,508 295
1986 101,799 74,053 4,182 243
1988 120,595 71,881 479
1990 99,003 91,677 967
1992 111,849 102,378 (AI) 15,049 (G) 9,529 311
1994 118,537 68,172 (G) 21,277 254
1996 138,834 85,114 (AI) 5,017 (G) 4,513 222
1998 139,676 77,232 (G) 5,923 469
2000 190,862 45,372 (G) 22,440 (AI) 10,085 4,802 832
2002 169,685 39,357 (G) 14,435 3,797 291
2004 213,216 67,074 (G) 11,434 7,157 1,115
2006 132,743 93,879 4,029 (G) 1,819 (IN) 1,615 560

General election

Young, plagued by questions about his ethics, faced a strong challenge from Democrat Ethan Berkowitz, the 46-year-old former minority leader in the Alaska House of Representatives.

The initial results from the general election on November 4, 2008, showed Young leading the race, but with many absentee and provisional ballots left to be counted, the race was not called. On November 12, 2008, the media declared that Young, 75, had retained his seat in the United States House of Representatives, for his 19th term. Young received roughly 50% of the vote compared to Berkowitz's 45% and 5% for Don Wright, the candidate of the Alaskan Independence Party.Berkowitz himself conceded defeat on November 18, 2008, after counting of absentee and provisional ballots had mostly been completed and Young had a clearly insurmountable lead. Berkowitz received more votes in 2008 than any Democrat who had ever run against Young for Congress, and the 2008 race was the closest any Democrat had come to unseating Young since 1990, when John Devens of Valdezmarker received 48% of the vote.

Committee assignments

See also


Further reading

External links

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