Don Young may have a 2016 challenger

WASHINGTON -- A retired public media executive is thinking about taking on Alaska's 43-year Republican congressman -- Don Young -- in this year's election, as a Democrat.

Stephen Lindbeck, who retired as CEO of Alaska Public Media in October, told Alaska Dispatch News he is conducting a "serious exploration" about whether to wage the campaign fight.

Lindbeck said he will make a decision very soon. For now, what's "most important is to gauge whether I have real support," Lindbeck said.

Without declaring his candidacy, Lindbeck cannot begin asking for donations outright, but he is in touch with one potential funding source: the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in Washington, D.C.

Lindbeck said he recently met with officials there when he was in town for a meeting at the Swedish Embassy regarding his new position as honorary Swedish consul for Alaska. Campaign staffers in Washington, D.C., were receptive, he said.

If he does decide to challenge Young, "I will be competitive," Lindbeck said, noting that he has been "encouraged by a lot of people," including some in the state Democratic Party.

Lindbeck, 61, moved to Alaska as a teenager and graduated from West Anchorage High School, later earning a degree from Stanford University. He is married to Patty Ginsburg, a consultant.


Voting records show he is registered as "undeclared."

The potential candidate spent many years in the news business, including time as an associate editor at the Anchorage Daily News and sports editor at the Anchorage Times, and his most recent post as the CEO of Alaska Public Media, a statewide network of more than two dozen public radio stations that he led out of a $2 million debt. Prior to that, he was a vice chancellor at the University of Alaska Anchorage, and headed the Alaska Humanities Forum.

Lindbeck has volunteered on boards and committees for a variety of nonprofit groups, including the Anchorage Museum Association, Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Anchorage, the United Way in Anchorage and the Downtown Anchorage Rotary, according to his biography posted online by the Alaska World Affairs Council, a nonprofit organization where he serves on the board of directors. (Alice Rogoff, owner of Alaska Dispatch News, also serves on the board of the council.)

Taking on ‘Teflon Don’

The potential Young challenger didn't say much about the man he may run against, just that "everybody has an impression about him," and that the 82-year-old lawmaker has "served long and well, but there comes a time when you need to look ahead."

Lindbeck said he is "frustrated as anybody watching the way Congress" has been conducting itself.

No major challengers have emerged as Young heads into his 23rd election cycle. Homer attorney Paul Hannan has announced plans to challenge Young in the Republican primary. But nobody has filed fundraising paperwork with the Federal Election Commission.

The congressman currently has nearly $600,000 on hand, according to FEC records.

Historically, taking on Young has not been an easy endeavor. The last time he got less than 50 percent of the vote was in 1992, when he won a close race against Democrat John Devens. The closest race in recent years was in 2008, against now-Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz, which Young won 50.14 percent to 44.98 percent. (A third-party candidate took home 4.5 percent of the vote that year.)

In 2015, Young bested Forrest Dunbar, then 29 years old, by a 10 point margin. Dunbar is now running for an East Anchorage Assembly spot.

Dunbar was easily out-funded in the 2014 campaign and struggled to gain an advantage over Young, despite the congressman's known tendency for verbal foibles.

Efforts to highlight Young's 2014 House ethics violations fell flat. Young received a "letter of reproval" in 2014, but no official sanction, and was asked to repay $60,000 related to 15 hunting trips -- in New York, Texas, New Mexico and elsewhere -- that violated campaign spending rules. The investigation was launched after Young gathered national attention for inserting a $10 million earmark for a Florida road into a transportation bill, a move that came shortly after he visited the area for a campaign fundraiser. At the time, Young was chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

Young hails from Fort Yukon, where he moved in the mid-1950s after serving in the U.S. Army, and a childhood in California.

He has served for 43 years, making him the longest-serving Republican in the House of Representatives and the third-longest-serving member overall (two Democrats have held seats for longer). He currently chairs the Subcommittee on Alaska Native and Indian Affairs on the House Natural Resources Committee.

Erica Martinson

Erica Martinson is Alaska Dispatch News' Washington, DC reporter, and she covers the legislation, regulation and litigation that impact the Last Frontier.  Erica came to ADN after years as a reporter covering energy at POLITICO. Before that, she covered environmental policy at a DC trade publication and worked at several New York dailies.