Two maritime unions pull longtime support for Young, endorse challenger

The two maritime unions that criticized Rep. Don Young over his silence on campaign contributor Edison Chouest Offshore's likely assumption of tanker escort duties in Prince William Sound rescinded their longtime support for him and on Thursday announced they were endorsing his main challenger in the race.

Representatives with the Seattle-based Inlandboatmen's Union and the Maryland-based International Organization of Masters, Mates & Pilots on announced their support for Democrat Steve Lindbeck at a press event at his campaign headquarters on Thursday.

The unions each have about 5,000 members living around the country. For decades, the groups have found an ally in Young, a former tugboat operator on the Yukon River. But they say they've been angered by his decision not to speak out over the awarding of a valuable private contract to Louisiana tugboat company Edison Chouest for spill-prevention and ship-escort duties in Prince William Sound. Edison Chouest was one of the companies faulted by the federal government for errors that led to the grounding of Shell's Kulluk drilling rig off Kodiak in 2012.

[Rep. Young's challenger says his receipt of contributions by a maritime company amounts to 'legalized bribery']

Edison Chouest employees and related companies have given close to $300,000 to Young's campaigns and legal defense funds since 2007. Union members and Lindbeck have asserted the donations bought Young's silence on a public matter involving a critical waterway that supports fishing.

Alyeska Pipeline Service Co., manager of the spill-response contract on behalf of its owners — primarily BP, ExxonMobil and ConocoPhillips — says Edison Chouest is poised to take over the 10-year contract from Crowley Marine, a union company from Florida.

Young's press secretary has said it's not appropriate to weigh in on a private contractual matter.

But Edison Chouest has described several agencies and public entities as "stakeholders" in the contract, including the U.S. Coast Guard, the state Department of Environmental Conservation and a citizen watchdog group and fishermen.

Alex DeMarban

Alex DeMarban is a longtime Alaska journalist who covers business, the oil and gas industries and general assignments. Reach him at 907-257-4317 or alex@adn.com.