If Rep. Young wins and successfully completes his 21st term, he’ll surpass former Senator Ted Stevens as the longest serving Alaskan in Washington.
The 79 year old is currently the second longest-serving Republican in the House, trailing Florida’s Bill Young by a few months. That’s because Don Young was first elected to Congress in a special election. He lost the preceding general election to Nick Begich, who died in a plane crash.
Young said his 39 years in office are an asset, and longevity is just one attribute he says makes him suitable for another term.
“Most of all, my diversity when it comes to the state. This is not just Anchorage or Fairbanks. This is the whole state of Alaska,” he said.
Young loves to make that point: He’s an Interior politician. And it’s a point that rattles some Democratic operatives who worry their party is too focused on Anchorage and Juneau.
His opponent, Sharon Cissna, lives in Anchorage. Young calls Fort Yukon home, though he has a place in Anchorage as well.
Cissna’s campaign is a long-shot by any measure. But that’s not to say Young is taking it too lightly.
“If I was to appear weak and didn’t have a big turnout younger guys, and the guys who want to take this job, will say ‘he’s getting weaker, he’s getting more mature,'” he said. “And I always worry about that. The next campaign is already being planned.”
Young has the political savvy to keep as many people happy as possible. When asked what concrete plans he has for a 21st term, he spouted of a list of things he’d do: Things that will pique people’s interest, like curtailing regulation, and specific proposals, like one for the state to try and take control of the national parks.
“So it’s more of Alaskans, not just tourists,” he railed. “And I’m going to try and have some language that will take and expedite the process for Alaska Native people to be more capable of being able to manage their own resources as the rest of the nation.”
Young knows people are constantly chattering about successors, and he said he hasn’t found someone he’s willing to clear the path for.
“They want to be a Congressman for just a short period of time and then become a United States Senator or Governor. And I’m saying un unh. This is a job very important to Alaska. That’s one reason I’ve stayed in it. And I still enjoy the work,” he said.
Young said when he no longer enjoys the job, he’ll call it quits. But he did not say when that will be.