In 1994 the citizens of Alaska passed a ballot measure to establish term limits, joining 23 other states to overwhelmingly support the end of "career representatives" in Congress. Long before Coconut Road and "bridges to nowhere" defined Alaska politics, we knew there was a need to limit terms in office.
The statute, approved by 63 percent of Alaska voters and still on the books ( 15.30.160 ), says: "federal officeholders who remain in office for extended periods of time become preoccupied with their own reelection ... devote more effort to campaigning for their office than making legislative decisions for the benefit of the people of Alaska ... become too closely aligned with the special interest groups who provide contributions and support for their reelection campaigns and lobby special interest legislation ... entrenched incumbency has discouraged qualified citizens from seeking office..." Sounds like Don Young to me.
In yet another misguided U.S. Supreme Court decision, state-established term limits for Congress were deemed unconstitutional by a 5-4 vote the following year, rendering part of Alaska's law moot. Twenty years later, we can still see term limits are no less necessary to restore a level playing field in politics and maintain a functional democracy.
But our law reached beyond the Supreme Court's decision. Section (g) of AS 15.30.180 still states: "...members of the United States House of Representatives and United States Senate ... are instructed to use their best efforts to attain such a limitation on terms nationwide."
I don't recall any of our delegation exerting any effort to attain term limits for their own seats, much less putting forth their "best efforts."
Don Young's shenanigans and outbursts have made Alaska politics a national media punchline. After 41 years in the House he has no more power than a freshman legislator, and every year is more beholden to corporate lobbyists than the citizens he claims to represent. On top of that, he has been ignoring the citizens for 20 years by not giving his "best effort" to get term limits passed by Congress.
Alaskan voters by a nearly 2-1 margin supported term limits for Congress in 1994. We have another opportunity to restore integrity to our great state by enacting a "term limit" this November. It's up to us to retire Don Young, it's clear he'll never retire himself.
Russ Maddox has lived in Seward for more than 30 years. He is a small business owner and an active volunteer advocate in the conservation community.
By Russ Maddox