The Anchorage Daily News asked Alaska candidates for U.S. Congress to answer a series of issue questions. Here are their responses. Read more here.
DON YOUNG | Republican | Occupation: Congressman | Age: 87 | Residence: Fort Yukon | Relevant experience / Prior offices held: Mayor of Fort Yukon (1964-1968), Alaska State House (1967-1971), Alaska State Senate (1971-1973) | www.alaskansfordonyoung.com
Why are you running for office?
I’m running because I’m the best person to represent Alaska in the House of Representatives. I have a proven track record of effective legislating and will continue to ensure that our state’s interests are protected. I’m a fighter for Alaska when it comes to securing federal resources and resisting outside interests that seek to stifle our prosperity. I bring the values of dedication and persistence to all the work I do. Standing up for Alaskans from every walk of life is my passion. It’s always meaningful for me when I can make a difference for a constituent, whether it be through fixing a problem with their student loans or assisting a veteran access benefits they’re entitled to. I’m also in the race because Alaska needs its seniority in the House. My positions on caucuses and committees as well as my relationships with leadership and other Members – on both sides of the aisle – means that I can get big things done for Alaska. Simply put, this would not be possible for a new Member.
Name two big problems or challenges currently facing Alaska and how you plan to address them if elected.
First, Alaska and our country must persevere through the COVID-19 pandemic. We need to be able to safely reopen our economy, get people back to work, and protect our most vulnerable. I have and will continue to support these efforts in Congress. This means helping small businesses, supporting research for treatments and a vaccine, providing for public health resources, procuring PPE, increasing telehealth access and much more. Second, Alaska needs to diversify its economic base. While oil and gas development are vital, we need strength in an array of sectors to carry us, particularly in tough times. Many communities rely heavily on a few industries, and we can’t let a bad fishing season or cruise ship cancellations irreparably damage a town. I’ll work to protect these critical sectors of the Alaskan economy and promote policies to empower Alaskans to branch out. This includes advancing bills to support projects like hydropower, that reduce power costs for families and businesses.
Do you think the federal government has effectively dealt with the coronavirus pandemic as a public-health issue? What specifically should have been done differently?
The COVID-19 pandemic has been a tremendous challenge for our country. No government response to an emergency is perfect, but Congress and the President have worked together to combat this virus through multiple legislative packages and I’ve been proud to support these efforts. We have made incredible investments in our health infrastructure to help get through this and be better prepared in the future. This includes resources for the public health response and preparedness, funding for vaccines, treatments, and diagnostic measures, reimbursement for hospitals and health care providers, increasing the National Strategic Stockpile for medical supplies, waiving rules to increase telehealth access, among additional provisions. We’ve also increased funding to combat secondary effects of the pandemic such as programs for mental health, substance abuse, domestic violence, child abuse, suicide prevention, homelessness, and others.
What should the federal government be doing to repair economic damage related to the pandemic?
Congress has passed, and President Trump has signed, multiple major COVID-19 packages to help combat the disease as well as assist Americans in need of economic relief. These bills included funding to state, local tribal response efforts (Including $1.25 billion specifically for the State of Alaska to determine how best to spend), direct cash assistance to individuals and children, lending to small businesses through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), fisheries assistance (Including $50 million specifically for Alaskan fishermen), expanded paid leave policies, increased unemployment benefits, and other provisions. Additionally, after hearing from Alaskans that operate seasonal businesses, I worked with the Treasury Department to help secure a rule change to give them greater flexibility when applying for PPP loans. COVID-19 has devastated our economy, but I will continue to support legislation and policies that will help our citizens safely and effectively reopen our country.
What will you do to address high health-care costs (and access to quality care) for Alaskans?
I have long viewed telehealth as an important way to increase access while lowering health care costs. This has proven true during the COVID-19 pandemic as certain rules have been removed or waived and patients and providers have been able to safely interact remotely. Certain instances will of course still require an in-person appointment, but these past months have shown that telehealth is an effective diagnostic tool for physicians and it cuts costs all around. However, it requires access to consistent and reliable internet services and that is why I worked with Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA) to introduce the Healthcare Broadband Expansion during COVID-19 Act. This bill would expand an FCC program that funds broadband connectivity for health care facilities in response to COVID-19. Future health reform should focus on strengthening the provider-patient relationship in a bipartisan manner, protect individuals with preexisting conditions and avoid a one-size-fits-all government approach.
What should be done, if anything, to change federal immigration policies?
I have, and continue to witness firsthand, the incredible value immigrants provide to our country, our culture, our economy, and our way of life. However, our current immigration system is in serious need of reform. The United States must secure its borders and implement measures to ensure they remain protected. Additionally, we must fix the legal immigration process. The average citizenship application processing time for highly skilled immigrants, such as engineers or scientists, can exceed ten years. Our immigration system must focus on the thousands of highly skilled foreign nationals seeking education, economic opportunity, and jobs that provide for our economy. As a country of immigrants, I fully understand the role our legal immigration process has in society. However, it is well past time that our legal immigration process moves from a system that focuses on extended family members and the luck of the draw to a system that favors this country’s economic needs.
Describe your vision for Alaska.
My vision for Alaska is a place where our children grow up in safe communities, get a robust education and choose to stay and raise their family because they have a well-paying job. It’s a place that supports its service members, veterans and takes care of its seniors. It’s a place that values its rural areas and doesn’t neglect the needs of those who live in remote villages. You can see my vision for Alaska interwoven in my work in Congress. For example, this Congress I teamed up with Rep. Peterson (D-MN) to introduce the Universal Broadband Act, which helps build out broadband in rural and high-cost areas. I’ve joined Rep. Bonamici (D-OR) to introduce the Save Our Seas 2.0 Act, which supports efforts to eliminate marine debris and increase investments to reduce the pollution of plastic waste on a global scale. I believe Alaska can lead the way to responsibly develop oil, timber, minerals, fish, and other resources we have been blessed with to better our lives and bolster our economy.
What is the role of the federal government to reduce high rates of sexual assault and domestic violence in Alaska?
I’m concerned about attacks on all women, but there is an epidemic of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW) and Girls. Alaska Native women and girls are disproportionately affected by kidnapping, trafficking, and violent crimes such as murder. Last year, I voted to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act and I offered an amendment that enhanced a pilot program to expand the jurisdiction of tribal law enforcement to areas throughout Native villages. My amendment passed unanimously. In August I was proud to attend the opening of the Operation Lady Justice Task Force Cold Case Office in Anchorage. This office allows for collaboration between tribal, federal, and state agencies to solve cases and bring justice to families, along with increased funding to carry out the work. It is my great hope that we can turn the tide in the fight against crimes perpetrated in our communities and it will continue to be one of my highest priorities to ensure that Alaska is a safe place for all.
What do you think is the United States' role in the world?
The United States is unquestionably the world’s foremost defender of liberty, economic security, and the largest international economic aid donor in dollar terms. Every year, our humanitarian aid saves the lives of people who have tuberculosis, malaria, and other diseases. Additionally, our foreign assistance provides people with access to clean water, and it feeds many starving children whose only fault was being born into extreme poverty. However, we need to make sure we remain strong at home or that will limit our capacity to help those abroad.
How would you describe President Trump’s term in office?
I am glad that Alaska has seen major beneficial policy advancements under this Administration. While President Trump and I don’t agree on every issue, his focus on expanding responsible natural resource development, protecting the Second Amendment, and supporting our armed forces has been good for the state. President Trump has worked well with Congress to rebuild the military by increasing funding to invest in people, equipment, training, and modernizing our capabilities, which were previously depleted under the Obama Administration. Additionally, the Trump Administration has secured the long fought for Coastal Plain Oil and Gas Leasing Program in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). The Administration has been instrumental in overturning the Clinton-era Roadless Rule, which was detrimental to our timber industry in Southeast. Recently, Congress and the President permanently authorized the Land and Water Conservation Fund, the largest conservation investment in decades.
How important of a priority to you is reducing the federal deficit? Explain.
The ballooning national debt is one of the greatest long-term challenges that our country faces. I have long supported and voted in favor of a constitutional amendment prohibiting spending for the year from exceeding total revenue for the year unless both the House and Senate pass legislation by a three-fifths vote approving the deficit spending. Importantly, Congress could waive these requirements when a declaration of war is in effect or if the United States is engaged in a military conflict that causes a threat to national security. I remain committed to seeking ways to address our out of control debt in a responsible bipartisan manner.
What should Congress and the federal government do to deal with climate change, specifically its impacts in Alaska?
I believe the United States should continue working to reduce emissions in a way that allows for improvements and technological innovations over time to adapt to changing conditions. At the same time, we must work to ensure American energy independence more broadly. America is what it is today because of our ability to innovate, which was often supported by federal research and development, not forced into existence by regulation. To that end I have introduced the Water Power Research and Development Act with Representative Bonamici (D-OR) to increase federal investments in hydropower by strengthening water power programs at the Department of Energy (DOE) and reauthorizing funding for research, development, demonstration, and commercialization of marine energy.
What’s your position on the proposed Pebble mine?
Decisions based on reason and sound science should win over emotion and environmental extremism every time. Pebble Partnership needs to use science-based analysis and recommendations while also following the process outlined by law. If the process is allowed to move forward and the science indicates it can proceed with minimal impact on the environment, then it should move forward. It is important that the Pebble Partnership listens to the input from neighboring communities about the project and how best to implement it if permitted. But Alaskans should be reminded that this is State land; I am a staunch defender of our right to manage our own lands. From day one, this project has been subject to the political whims, decisions, and opinions of federal agencies and bureaucrats who disagree with how we choose to live and work. If we allow this to continue, then the federal government has a moral and economic obligation to compensate our state for stifling Alaska’s job growth potential.
What other important issue would you like to discuss with voters?
My motto has always been doing what’s best for Alaska. At its core, that’s what this job is about. When I pursue legislation or a change in regulation, it’s because a constituent or leader in the state has come to me with a challenge that needs to be overcome. The problems we face aren’t unique to Democrats or Republicans – I fight because we need Alaskan solutions that uplift Alaskans. We have always been innovative and self-reliant. We know what’s best for the well-being of our people and the right path for the state. Far too often unelected bureaucrats in DC think they have Alaska figured out and end up hurting our progress. It’s my job to make sure they don’t. It’s an honor to serve you and make sure that when big issues are on the table, the voices of real Alaskans are heard. No matter how much division and rancor dominates national politics, I have always been able to cut through the noise to deliver for you. Alaskans deserves this from a Representative.
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Alaska Public Media interview: