Anchorage Assembly member Christopher Constant announces run for U.S. House against Don Young

Anchorage Assembly member Christopher Constant will run for U.S. House in this year’s statewide elections, he said Thursday.

Constant is the first registered Democrat in this election to say that they will challenge Rep. Don Young, who has held Alaska’s lone House seat since 1973. He’s also the first openly gay candidate for statewide office in Alaska.

Speaking after a campaign event at 49th State Brewing, he said he’s running because of broad disappointment about the state’s economic picture.

“I want to see the kids have an opportunity, when they’ve graduated college, to have an actual job when they get back here. Despite all efforts, that is not the climate we’re living in right now,” he said.

He said running for Congress has been a long-term aspirational goal, describing himself as “one of those oddballs in high school who went to leadership camp,” but he began actively thinking about it after Nick Begich III, Young’s most prominent Republican opponent, entered the race.

He said Begich has “picked up on the more extreme right-wing messaging.” As an example of that kind of messaging from another source, he cited the Republican National Committee’s description of the U.S. Capitol riot as “legitimate political discourse.”

“That kind of thinking cannot be the center of this campaign,” he said. “We can’t drive more to the right, or we’re going to fall off the edge of the flat world.”


Responding to Constant’s entry into the race, Begich said, “America is a marketplace of ideas. Christopher Constant’s entry into the race appears to indicate that Democrats see Don Young’s service coming to an end.”

He said he looks forward to debating both Constant and Young on the issues.

“I just hope that Congressman Don Young will respect Alaskans enough to show up to debate and discuss the issues,” Begich said.

Matt Shuckerow, speaking on behalf of Young’s campaign, said that Young “has always welcomed all candidates to the congressional race. While much of his focus remains on his official duties, Congressman Young looks forward to running a strong campaign and earning the support of a growing coalition of Alaskans.”

He said “no amount of political ambition can replace Don Young’s experience and seniority in Congress.” Those could be particularly important, he said, with Republicans poised to take control of the U.S. House.

Constant currently serves as the vice chair of the Anchorage Assembly and said he will keep that role.

“I’m not leaving the Assembly seat; there’s no reason why I have to, and I’m going continue representing my neighbors and constituency,” he said.

He said the upcoming addition of a 12th Assembly seat will help that representation, because there will be two people representing Assembly District 1 for the first time.

He also intends to withdraw from some leadership positions, such as the city’s negotiating group on homelessness, and will take long-term leave from his day job.

Constant acknowledged his status as Alaska’s first openly gay candidate for statewide office, but said he doesn’t want that aspect of his identity to define his candidacy.

“It is who I am. It’s integral to my identity, because of who I love and how my life is organized. But it’s not the central thing,” he said.

Growing up during the 1980s and the AIDS epidemic informed his reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic, Constant said. Also, he arrived in Alaska in the late 1990s, when the state was debating and passing a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman. That amendment, though legally unenforceable, remains part of the state constitution.

In the past few months, he’s been the subject of homophobic remarks delivered in the Assembly chambers. He said those remarks indicate how far society has to go toward acceptance.

Young has been in office since 1973 and has defeated many challengers. Constant said the state’s new election system — a top-four August primary with ranked-choice voting in November — changes the debate.

If Republicans are fractured between Begich and Young, that opens an opportunity for someone new, he said.

“I, of course, want Alaskans to vote for me in that No. 1 spot. And if they can’t vote for me as No. 1, I prefer that they vote for me as No. 2, because I can assure you, I will bring a conversation to Washington that will be collaborative, hardworking, and about the future and not getting dragged down into these internecine battles,” he said.

James Brooks

James Brooks was a Juneau-based reporter for the ADN from 2018 to May 2022.