Don Young wins 25th term in the U.S. House

From front, Rep. Don Young and Mayor Clay Koplin. (Sept. 1, 2020) Photo by Zachary Snowdon Smith/The Cordova Times

 Don Young, the longest-serving Republican ever in the U.S. House, has won his 25th term.

Young defeated Alyse Galvin in back-to-back elections for Alaska’s sole seat in the House.

Galvin is an independent who won the Democratic primary. The race was called on Wednesday, after the state began counting more than 150,000 absentee and other ballots.

“While we respect the doctrine of ‘every vote counts,’ the votes on election night, coupled with the absentee votes now counted, show a clear victory for Congressman Young,” his campaign manager, Truman Reed, said in a statement Wednesday.

In this year’s race, Galvin, 55, tried to paint Young as someone who has lost clout and at 87 years old is no longer able to do the job effectively.

Young countered by calling himself one of the most effective members of Congress and said he continues to work hard for Alaska.

“To my friends, supporters, volunteers, and the tens of thousands of Alaskans that voted for me from Utqiagvik to Ketchikan, you have my gratitude and undying appreciation,” Young said in a statement. “I look forward to serving another term as Congressman for all Alaska.”

Galvin’s campaign had no immediate comment on the result but said it would issue a comment soon.

He attempted to tie Galvin to liberal Democrats. An ad on an Anchorage city bus featured the face of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, with the words: “Alyse Galvin is on Team Pelosi.”

Young carries the ceremonial title of Dean of the U.S. House, bestowed upon the longest serving member. The position has no official duties other than swearing in the House speaker.

He was born June 9, 1933, in Meridian, California. After receiving his teaching degree in 1958 from Chico State College, he moved to Alaska. He taught at a Bureau of Indian Affairs school in Fort Yukon, a small community above the Arctic Circle and where he still calls home.

Young is only the fourth person since statehood to represent Alaska in the U.S. House. The Republican lost to U.S. Rep. Nick Begich, a Democrat, in the 1972 election even though Begich and Rep. Hale Boggs of Louisiana were missing and presumed dead when their plane never arrived in Juneau on a campaign trip.

In 1973, Young won a special election for the seat after Begich had been declared dead.

Galvin is a third-generation Alaskan who is an advocate for public schools. Her husband, Pat, is an oil executive and served in the cabinet of former Gov. Sarah Palin.

Young and Galvin have a contentious relationship. During a 2018 debate, Galvin complained that he hurt her hand during a handshake. Young countered she reacted that way for publicity.

Young has always said he won’t mind losing to a qualified candidate. But in an interview with the Anchorage Daily News, he called Galvin “incompetent.”

In debates in this year’s race, Young called Galvin by the wrong first name three times, referring to her either as Alice or Allison.

She corrected him after one instance.

“OK, Don, let’s start with my name, Alyse Galvin. Please show that kind of respect that we know Alaskans expect of all candidates running for Congress,” she said.