As Galvin leads money race, spokesman for Rep. Young says he wasn’t trying to hurt challenger with handshake

Neither candidate wants the battle for Alaska’s U.S. House seat to be about a single handshake. Yet as Rep. Don Young runs for re-election for the umpteenth time, the final moments of a recent debate led to the most buzzed about encounter of the campaign.

In a video of the Oct. 19 candidate forum in Anchorage, Galvin can be seen reaching to shake Young's hand. As they make contact, Galvin says "Please don't hurt my hand" and winces, telling Young he hurt her.

Asked about the exchange, Galvin called the handshake a "cheap bully tactic" on Friday but said she does not want to dwell on it. Young campaign spokesman Jerry Hood described Galvin's reaction in the video as "a bad acting job" and said Young intended no harm.

With the election 11 days away, the candidates are fighting for voters' attention amid the topsy-turvy governor's race. Meantime, Galvin's campaign says it has quietly raised the most money of Young's many challengers. Elected in 1973, Young has been in office the longest of all current House members.

As of this week, Galvin had collected about $1.48 million from nearly 4,000 donors, according to the Federal Election Commission. A spokeswoman says tens of thousands more donors contributed less than $200 and that when the latest checks are counted the campaign will have surpassed Ethan Berkowitz's 2008 war chest for the most money raised against Young.

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Young has raised far less money — $1.04 million – from fewer donors over a longer stretch of time, according the FEC. Young spokesman Jerry Hood said the incumbent is meeting his fund-raising goals and criticized Galvin's receipt of donations via ActBlue, a nonprofit that supports Democratic candidates.


"An independent? I don't think so," Hood said. "She's using the Democratic machine to raise money."

Galvin's voter registration is "undeclared" and she is the first independent candidate to appear on the general election ballot as the Democratic party nominee. Galvin has said she would not accept donations from corporate political action committees and criticized Young's receipt of corporate donations at a September forum.

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Fast forward to the Alaska Federation of Natives convention this month in Anchorage. As candidates arrived at the Dena'ina Civic and Convention Center on Oct. 19, Gov. Bill Walker announced his bombshell decision to drop out of the governor's race and support Democrat Mark Begich.

The U.S. House debate came moments later. Watch the full half-hour forum here.

In the final 20 seconds, Galvin can be seen reaching out to shake Young's hand. As their hands meet, Galvin says, "Don't hurt my hand." And then, "That hurt!"

"I'm sorry, I'm shaking hands," Young says.

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In 2014, Young made national headlines when an NBC producer filmed him gripping the hand or wrist of a Congressional staffer who reacted in pain. In that case, Young apologized. Two years later, a woman who confronted Young about his remarks on suicide told the Congressman, "Don't you get angry with me, don't even squeeze my hand."

In an interview Friday, Galvin had little to say about the encounter.

"Alaskans just really want to stay focused on the issues and what they care about," Galvin said.

Asked if Young was attempting to hurt his opponent, Hood said no. "That's absurd. It's preposterous," he said.

Galvin supporters were encouraged this month by a recent poll by that said Galvin trailed Young by just four points. Young's spokesman noted that the same pollster, among others, had said Berkowitz was leading Young shortly before the 2008 election that ended with a 5-point Young victory.

What, if anything, has changed in the past decade? Galvin said that with only two names on the ballot and no third-party candidates, she likes her chances in a head-to-head race.

Kyle Hopkins

Kyle Hopkins is special projects editor of the Anchorage Daily News. He was the lead reporter on the Pulitzer Prize-winning "Lawless" project and is part of an ongoing collaboration between the ADN and ProPublica's Local Reporting Network. He joined the ADN in 2004 and was also an editor and investigative reporter at KTUU-TV. Email khopkins@adn.com