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Young prepares to run for 21st term with little apparent opposition

Posted: December 30, 2011 - 1:07am

ANCHORAGE — Alaska Republican Congressman Don Young is preparing to run for his 21st two-year term and the Democrats still don’t have a recognizable challenger out raising campaign cash as the year ends.

The only Democrats who have filed to take on Young are Doug Urquidi, who picked up 11 percent of the vote in a bid for an Anchorage Assembly seat last spring, and Frank Vondersaar, who runs for office every election and says his platform involves counteracting the “hard-core fascist prostitute Justice majority US Supreme Court.”

Former state Rep. Harry Crawford, who ran against Young in the last election, said he won’t take another shot at Young and is instead contemplating a run for the Alaska Legislature.

“It looks like the Justice Department is going to let him off and I can’t raise that kind of money if the people who give money don’t smell blood in the water,” he said.

Crawford won 31 percent of the vote against Young in the 2010 election. He said that anyone who wants to topple Alaska’s lone member of the U.S. House since 1973 should be raising campaign cash by this point.

“It’s a long hill to climb to raise the kind of money that it takes to run against Don Young,” Crawford said Wednesday.

Candidates still have plenty of time to meet the June 1 filing deadline, followed by the primary in August and the general election in November. Alaska Democratic Party Chair Patti Higgins said the party doesn’t plan to let Young glide in.

“We have several really exciting possibilities,” Higgins said. “Nobody has come forward to announce yet but I think we’re going to have a really strong contender. We may have more than one.”

Higgins said she personally thinks that whoever is going to challenge Young should get out and start raising money “but they have their own calculus here and apparently they don’t think raising the money they need to against him is a problem.”

Higgins declined to say who is considering a run. She said she’s hoping whoever decides to run against Young will announce it before March.

Scott McAdams, the former Sitka mayor considered a rising star in the Democratic Party after his 2010 run for the U.S. Senate, said he’s not running against Young. Diane Benson, who has challenged Young in two previous elections, also said she’s not.

Young himself has not formally filed with the Division of Elections but he is raising money. Young reported receiving $102,265 between July 1 and Sept. 30, ending that period with $327,000 in his campaign account. Those are the most recent figures available, with Young’s next campaign disclosure reports not due until the end of January.

It’s just a fraction of the campaign cash Young brought in during the years he chaired the House Transportation Committee. That was also before he spent more than $1 million in campaign funds on legal expenses associated with a federal investigation into his campaign fundraising and other matters. But Young says his legal bills are paid and he announced in August 2010 that he’d received a letter from the Justice Department saying he wasn’t going to be prosecuted.

Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics and a frequent media analyst, said he would have expected any viable Democratic candidates to have gotten in the race by now if they wanted to defeat Young.

“You need a good, solid year-plus to have any chance of beating him,” he said. “You’d have to have a lot of money, and even then, I don’t know how you swim against the presidential coattail.”

Sabato said he expects the Republican nominee for president to win almost 60 percent of the vote in Alaska. That makes it harder for Democrats running against Young or in other Alaska races in the 2012 election, he said.

Alaska does not have a U.S. Senate race in the 2012 election so Young is the only member of the congressional delegation to be on a ballot. Sabato said he expects the Democratic Party will save its money and organizational energy for what’s expected to be Alaska Democratic Sen. Mark Begich’s hotly contested re-election race in 2014.

If that’s true, then Young, the second-longest-serving Republican in the U.S. House, appears to have a good chance at another term.

One Republican, John Cox of Anchor Point, has so far filed to run for Young’s seat in the GOP’s August primary. Libertarian candidate Jim McDermott and non-affiliated candidate Ted Gianoutsos have also filed for the seat.

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