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Young: For Republicans, unseating Begich is mission critical

Pat Forgey
Congressman Don Young, shown here on Jan. 22, 2014, addressed the Alaska Republican Convention Saturday, saying it's imperative that party members support the GOP nominee for the Senate seat currently held by Mark Begich. Loren Holmes photo

JUNEAU -- With the Alaska Republican Party no longer facing a powerful tea party insurgency, party members are now able to get back to their favorite activities -- such as listening to Congressman Don Young tear into the Democratic Party and Washington, D.C., as enemies of the country.

Without saying the words "Mark Begich," Young focused on on the U.S. Senate race at the heart of the 2014 Alaska Republican Convention during a lunch address Saturday as the convention concluded.

The country is under attack from its enemies, Young said, and it is up to the Republican Party to come together as a family to protect the country and defeat Begich.

"As a family we have to work together to try to make sure the enemies of this nation do not prevail -- and we do have enemies of this nation, we have a president that in fact wants to destroy this nation," he said.

In an interview afterward, Young said he had no animosity towards Begich personally and would continue to work with him as a fellow member of Alaska's congressional delegation.

Young told the convention that the only way to block the actions of President Barack Obama is for Alaskans to help put Begich's Senate seat in the hands of Republicans. Any of those running for the nomination will do, he said.

Seeking to take on Begich in the fall general election are Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell, unsuccessful 2010 candidate Joe Miller, and two-time Parnell administration cabinet member Dan Sullivan.

"Whoever the nominee is for that Senate seat, I want 100 percent behind him," Young said.

Tea party backing powered Miller to a Republican primary upset of incumbent Lisa Murkowski, but he lost to Murkowski when many Republicans did not vote for or actively support their party's nominee in the general election. 

To scare and motivate the convention delegates, Young warned that it's likely that if Begich is re-elected in November, he'll keep getting re-elected for many more terms.

Getting re-elected is a subject on which Young can speak with authority. After initially losing a race for Congress against Begich's father, Nick Begich, Young went on to win a special election after Nick Begich went missing in a small plane.

Initially facing spirited challenges for the seat, Young has generally won re-election relatively easily in the years since. 

One significant challenge came during the rise of the tea party, when Gov. Sean Parnell, then Gov. Sarah Palin's lieutenant governor, very nearly defeated defeated Young in the Republican primary in 2008.

Young said that challenge didn't come from Alaskans, but from powerful interest groups outside Alaska backing Parnell and attacking him.

While Young was viciously attacking Obama and Democrats, he said that among the ways Obama is damaging America is by dividing the country and "making people pit themselves against one another."

The most favorable comment Young made about Obama: The president is "very competent" at using executive orders and government regulations to limit Americans' freedoms. 

But Young said the key to stopping Obama is to defeat Begich, using "you know who" or other constructions to avoid naming Begich.

And he didn't attack Begich personally other than saying the senator votes 98 percent of the time with Obama. What he did say is that the Alaska seat Begich holds could be key to taking control of the U.S. Senate. What's most important, he said, is that current Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, not be able to lead the Senate and have the ability to support Obama.

"We need to hold the House, but we have to take the Senate," Young said.

Republican control of both houses of Congress will enable Republicans to better fight Obama, he said.

"We can't stop Obama -- he's going to continue to damage the country -- but if we take back the Senate, we can slow it down," he said.

Young is not facing a primary challenge. There are three little-known Democrats -- Forrest Dunbar, Matt Moore and Frank Vondersaar -- hoping to face him in November.

At the Republican convention in Juneau, the mainstream Republicans were back fully in control, in contrast to 2012's divisiveness as tea party and Libertarian factions backed Russ Millette for party chair. He was later ousted. This year, Party Chairman Peter Goldberg was re-elected unanimously with long-time Republican power broker Randy Ruedrich still highly visible.

This year's convention program listed Ruedrich as "past chairman." There was no mention of Millette. 

The convention also unanimously passed a resolution pledging that everyone would support all the eventual party nominees. 

"Not only support, but work hard for," Goldberg emphasized.