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Young in Their Sights

Alaska Congressman Attracting New Foes

Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) will likely have serious challenges again in the Republican primary and the general election in 2010.

Many people questioned whether the 18-term Republican would even run again after his wife died in August. But Young has insisted publicly and through aides that he intends to run for another term.

“He has every intention of running and every intention of winning,” said Young’s chief of staff, Pamela Day.

Young barely escaped defeat in 2008, when he beat his primary challenger by 304 votes and upset his general election opponent in a targeted race. And this cycle, businessman Andrew Halcro is expected to announce at a breakfast on Sept. 10 that he will challenge Young in the GOP primary.

“I’m about 95 percent of the way there,” Halcro said Friday. “I’ve had some good conversations this week. I take the run seriously.”

Halcro runs a popular blog critical of former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) and until recently hosted his own conservative radio show. He ran against Palin as an Independent in 2006 and garnered 9.5 percent of the vote.

Halcro said now-Gov. Sean Parnell’s (R) challenge to Young in 2008 failed because his campaign “lacked a lot of substance.” Despite backing from the Club for Growth and Palin, Parnell, who was then Palin’s lieutenant governor, lost to Young by small margin.

Although many national Republicans perceived Young to be at his weakest point last year in the primary, Halcro pointed out that he has lost his ranking member spot on the House Natural Resources Committee since his re-election in November.

“My problem with Don is that, at age 76, he’s been stripped of his committee chairmanships,” Halcro said. “So basically, he’s an 18-term freshman.”

According to one Republican operative in the state, Halcro’s seniority argument could make sense to many Alaska voters. “It’s going to be pretty difficult because Don Young’s argument about his seniority isn’t really valid because he hasn’t been in a leadership role in the last year and a half,” the operative said.

Still, the Republican was hesitant to discount Young’s prospects for re-election, saying the Congressman proved his mettle in his last race against Parnell, adding that Halcro often “came across as whiny and defensive” in his gubernatorial bid.

What’s more, Young could have the law on his side this time.

David Dittman, an Anchorage-based Republican pollster who has counted former Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) as clients, said the ethical cloud surrounding Young has faded because several other state politicians under investigation have either been acquitted or have had charges against them dropped recently. Stevens’ conviction in a corruption case was overturned a few months after he lost re-election to now-Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska).

“I think it tends to lift a cloud over Don as well,” Dittman said.

But that doesn’t mean that Young doesn’t have opposition in the state anymore.

Dittman, for one, no longer supports Young because the Congressman supports the Employee Free Choice Act. Alaska has one of the highest percentages of union households in the country because of the larger number of federal employee and industrial workers all over the state.

“I’m personally disappointed in Don,” Dittman said.

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