Confident Young already looking ahead to 2012

October 27, 2010 

U.S. Rep. Don Young, right, and his Democratic challenger, State Rep. Harry Crawford share a laugh after debating one another in Fairbanks Oct. 25, 2010.

JOHN WAGNER / FAIRBANKS DAILY NEWS-MINER VIA THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Don Young is so confident Alaska voters will give him a 20th term in Congress next week, he's already planning to run in 2012.

"With all due respects, my opponents are waiting for me to drop dead," the 77-year-old Republican said. "I'm not giving up yet. I like what I do."

Young is facing Democrat Harry Crawford in the U.S. House race in Tuesday's election. Crawford has struggled to gain name recognition and money from voters.

And this appears to be the wrong year to challenge Young, long considered a safe bet as Alaska's sole representative in the U.S. House.

In August, the U.S. Department of Justice announced it was no longer investigating Young for ties to Veco Corp. and a Florida earmark.

Young always declined to discuss the case but spent more than $1 million on legal fees before the federal government dropped the case.

Even when he was under investigation, he dispensed with Democrat Ethan Berkowitz in the 2008 race, the same election in which Alaska voters turned out U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens after he was convicted of lying on federal disclosure forms for gifts from the former head of Veco, an Anchorage oil services firm that since was sold. Stevens' conviction was later thrown out.

Young said he was always upbeat during the investigation "because I knew I was right.

"It's unfortunate that did cast a cloud over me, but that cloud's been lifted, and of course, that's a relief," he said.

Young was born June 9, 1933, in Meridian, Calif. He served in the Army and earned a bachelor's degree from Chico State College in 1958. He moved to Alaska the next year, working in construction, and as both a commercial fisherman and tug and barge operator.

He also was a teacher for the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Young was elected mayor of Fort Yukon in 1964 and to the state House two years later. He served four years and then was elected to the state Senate.

He challenged and lost to U.S. Rep. Nick Begich, D-Alaska, in 1972 even though a plane in which Begich was traveling disappeared three weeks earlier. Begich was declared dead in December 1972, and Young won a special election three months later.

Young has won every election since, he says, running the same campaign.

"I run and try to convince people I'm the best person for the job, and I've been successful at doing that," Young said. "I never put the job as Don Young's job, it is the congressman's job, and if that person is better than I am, I expect people to elect him."

Even though he's already planning for 2012, Young acknowledges he can't serve forever. He said he's looking for a person between the ages of 26 and 35, someone who will dedicate the next 25 years of their life to the U.S. House serving Alaska's needs, and not someone looking to use the office as a stepping stone to the Senate or the governor's office.

"Until I can find somebody with that type of dedication and understanding of the state -- it's not Anchorage, it's not Fairbanks, it's not the big metropolitan areas. They are part of it, but they're not total of it," he said.

"Our biggest challenge will be to bring us all together," Young said.

That, says Alaska's senior statesman, has been his overriding goal in office.

"I try to get everybody to understand we're all humans, and we're all part of this state," he said.

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