Politics

Late US Rep. Don Young’s office closes, leaving no House staff to take Alaska constituent calls

Don Young Office

WASHINGTON — The late U.S. Rep. Don Young’s former office officially closed Tuesday, and all his remaining staffers were taken off payroll. The winner of Tuesday’s special U.S. House election will move into the Alaska Republican’s former office after they’re sworn in next month, but it’ll remain vacant for weeks before then.

In March, Young — the dean of the House — died suddenly while serving his 49th year in Congress. The state is holding a special election to decide who will serve out the rest of Young’s term, which ends in January. Per U.S. House procedure, Young’s former offices in Washington, D.C., Anchorage and Fairbanks closed on the date of the special election to allow time to transition the office.

With at least two weeks to go until a special election winner is declared and longer until the winner is sworn in, the office could be vacant for a while. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., will set a swearing-in date and time after the special election, likely when the House returns from recess in September. That’s when the winner of the special election will move in. However, once Alaska voters choose a representative for the regular U.S. House term, that person will not use Young’s old office after they are sworn in in January.

After Young’s death, the office fell under Clerk of the House Cheryl Johnson’s supervision and was renamed Alaska at-large. Though Young’s former staffers could not craft or support legislation, they could still answer questions and help constituents navigate federal agencies. Until Tuesday, the staff assisted Alaskans with booking tours, securing passports and getting social security and veterans affairs benefits.

[Previously: Inside the final days of Don Young’s D.C. office]

Some of Young’s former staffers said they were concerned about how the office’s closure will impact Alaska constituents.

“Overall, I don’t think it’s good for Alaska to go without an office in the intervening time,” Young’s former chief of staff Alex Ortiz said in a text message.

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Ortiz recommended that Alaskans seek constituent services through the offices of Alaska Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan until a new representative begins work.

Young’s former staff and a team of archivists also had to dismantle the congressman’s famously jam-packed office. All told, they inventoried 1,495 items and 651 total boxes of paper records, according to lead archivist Megan O’Hern-Crook.

The archives are being shipped to Alaska, where they are going to be stored privately while a future plan for the archives is determined.

Correction: An earlier version of this article reported that Rep. Don Young’s archives were being shipped to the Ted Stevens Foundation in Anchorage. According to a trustee for Young, the Ted Stevens Foundation was initially going to store the items temporarily, but that plan has changed due to storage limitations. The archives are now going to be stored privately until Young’s estate, family and the nonprofit Don Young Institute for Alaska determine a long-term plan.

Riley Rogerson

Riley Rogerson is a reporter for the Anchorage Daily News based in Washington, D.C., and is a fellow with Report for America. Contact her at rrogerson@adn.com.

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