State leaders from across the political spectrum reacted with shock and sadness to news of the death of Rep. Don Young on Friday.
Senate President Peter Micciche called Young “Alaska’s Alaskan.”
“I think all Alaskans are having a tough time today,” he said.
Micciche, a Soldotna Republican, said his family had grown close to Young through the years. He added that Young’s impact in his nearly 50 years in the House is immeasurable.
“He went out serving, and I think that was important to him. It was kind of who he had become,” Micciche said. “And we’re going to miss him, for a lot of reasons not just personal, but I think we’ll miss some of the results that we’ve enjoyed in this state because of his hard work.”
The Senate president said Young stood apart from other politicians.
“I don’t think people in Alaska like the polish,” he said. “And he didn’t have any. He was a real guy, so you could be offended one minute, and then you’d be appreciative because, by golly, he’d pound on the desk and speak up for something you cared about.”
Dillingham independent Rep. Bryce Edgmon said Young helped shape legislation that continues to affect the state, such as the Magnuson-Stevens Act, which overhauled how U.S. fisheries are managed.
“Don Young was Alaska, just like Ted Stevens was Alaska,” Edgmon said, referring to the U.S. senator who worked with Young on many bills.
Gov. Mike Dunleavy released a statement calling Young a great friend.
“This is the Congressman whom Alaska will remember forever. Alaska is a better place because of Don Young,” Dunleavy said.
Other lawmakers’ statements recalled different ways Young affected them and the state.
Anchorage Republican Sen. Josh Revak called Young a mentor and a dear friend.
Wasilla Republican Rep. Cathy Tilton said many members of the House Republican minority caucus felt a special connection to Young because he had served in the state House, from 1967 to 1971. Young also served in the state Senate, from 1971 to 1973, before his election to Congress.
Members of the mostly Democratic House majority also released a statement. Nome Democratic Rep. Neal Foster said: “His loss is impossible to overstate.”