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Politics

Alaska Rep. Pruitt considering 2016 challenge to Don Young

  • Author: Nathaniel Herz
  • Updated: September 28, 2016
  • Published May 28, 2015

Alaska state Rep. Lance Pruitt, an Anchorage Republican, says he's been asked by several people to challenge longtime Republican U.S. Rep. Don Young in 2016 and will give the idea more consideration after the end of this year's state legislative session.

"I've thought about it -- I can't help but be flattered," Pruitt said in an interview. But, he added: "There are a lot of things I'd have to consider."

Pruitt, 33, represents East Anchorage and is in his third term in the Alaska House. He was the majority leader during the 2013 and 2014 legislative sessions, though he did not continue in a leadership position this year.

Pruitt said that "several different people" have asked him to run against Young, including some from outside Alaska, though he wouldn't say who.

"I think there's people that would like to talk to me more," he said.

But Pruitt also said he wanted to be careful in approaching a potential campaign, keeping in mind his current constituents and his family.

"I'm 33 right now and I don't want to force something that one day, as I mature, might come about. I want to make sure that I'm ready and that everyone else is ready," he said. "As I consider what people have been asking me, I just want to make it clear that I truly respect those that have been leaders for some time -- I don't want it to be seen as a young guy pushing people out of the way."

Pruitt said he respected Young, but added that one question he'd consider is whether Young is "still effective in D.C. as a Republican."

Pruitt said he could run in the federal primary and still potentially keep his state House seat if the Alaska Republican Party ran a placeholder candidate in the state primary who could step down and be replaced by Pruitt in the general election. But, Pruitt added, he would most likely give up his current seat if he chooses to challenge Young.

Young, 81, is currently serving his 22nd two-year term in the House.

He's already filed for re-election. He swamped his Democratic challenger last year 51 percent to 41 percent. That victory came in spite of criticism Young faced late in the campaign for controversial remarks he made about suicide, as well as a $59,000 fine the House Ethics Committee imposed on him last year.

Young has faced primary challenges during the last three elections, but has not received less than 70 percent of the vote each time. The closest challenge since then came in 2010, when Sheldon Fisher -- now commissioner of the state's Department of Administration -- got 23 percent of the Republican vote in the primary. Young went on to crush Democrat Harry Crawford in the general election that year, 69 percent to 31 percent.

Asked about a potential challenge from Pruitt, a spokesman for Young's campaign, Matt Shuckerow, emailed a statement.

"Congressman Young has already filed to run in 2016 and looks forward to campaign season," the statement said. "But for now, he's focused on his job and working for the people of Alaska."

Young's Democratic challenger last year, Forrest Dunbar, said on election night that he was thinking about running again in 2016. In a phone interview Thursday, Dunbar said he's currently focused on his job in the Alaska National Guard.

"I'm not thinking about it right now," he said.

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