Empire Exclusive: A Q&A with Rep. Don Young

Alaska’s Congressman talks #MeToo, climate change, Russia meddling and The Road

This is Don Young triumphant.


In the past year, the Republican who bills himself as the Congressman for All Alaskans has helped the federal government approve oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. He has helped negotiate a long-sought road between King Cove and Cold Bay. He cast a vote to send billions of dollars in federal defense spending to Alaska. He helped reverse restrictions on mining, resource development and more.

He’s had personal accomplishments as well. With the resignation of Michigan’s John Conyers, Young is now Dean of the House of Representatives: he has served longer in the House than any other person now there. He’s the first Republican to hold that honor since 1933.

While Young has accomplished many of his personal goals in the past year, Alaska’s 23-term Congressman will face challenges in the year ahead. He must cope with an erratic and scandal-prone president. He will deal with a tide of public support for gun control, something he firmly opposes. This fall, he will face election against a talented woman who may be his toughest challenger since 2008.

On Monday afternoon, Young sat down with the Empire for a wide-ranging 30-minute interview on a variety of subjects. This transcript has been edited for length; a full and unedited 5,200-word transcript of our conversation is attached to this story online.

Q: You’re here. You’ve had a great year. What’s next?

A. Oh I’m looking forward to — the big bill as I’m working on right now is the transportation bill. We have differences of opinion there and I don’t think the President’s proposal is doable and even within my own group they have to recognize they have to fund it. We’re about $21 trillion in debt. We can’t borrow money for infrastructure; we have to pay for it. And that’s going to be the big fight.

Q: What do you think of the #MeToo movement?

A: You know it’s of course a big movement. We’re concentrating a lot on that, and I don’t know whether Congress can fix it, right up front with you. This is one of the things that concerns me. As my liberals have promoted free expression, free dress, free suggestions, all kinds of different things, and you know all those things have been going on ever since Lyndon B. Johnson and George Washington. Are they right? No. But you know I, I, get a little concerned when there’s other bigger problems, and there are are bigger problems in this country. And we shouldn’t be addressing those instead of concentrating on that and let the people themselves handle this problem.

Q: At the Petroleum Club talk last night, you mentioned states have the responsibility to respond to the Florida shooting. Can you expand on that?

A: It’s the states’ and it’s also — you know, I lived through an era, time and up until 40 years ago kids took guns to school and there were no shootings. Is anybody looking at what happened in those 40 years? No. What’s happened to the family? No one’s addressing that. What’s happening to the media? What’s happening to the video games? What’s exposing the man’s or woman’s mind and they go nuts? What is creating that? You know it’s sort of like putting an alcohol rehabilitation center to treat the systems after the fact and, of course, you know I’m totally against gun control. … The thing I will support, and I have supported before, is identification of those that are mentally unbalanced and you know that may be hard to do because then you’re infringing upon your rights. How do we know you’re mentally balanced? A background check? Maybe.

Q: Do you believe climate change is real? Do you believe global warming is real?

A: Oh, change is happening but it is not mankind’s fault. (Inaudible) but I just said it goes back to like, so-called gun control. It’s all man’s fault. It’s third person but there’s one person and I’m saying in climate change, this is not new.

Q: Well, you know, the majority of scientists believe in climate change —

A: The “majority of scientists” that are listened to because of the media. I’ve got 72 good scientists that work with me all the time on this, including one at the University of Alaska saying this is a cycle system. Eleven times we froze, and we are on our warming period. And people don’t want to listen to that because it’s not popular. And you and I are going to do something about it. It’s not going to happen.

And you know — it’s a matter of control by individuals that think the best thing is frightened people, so they can be directed into the corral. That’s really what it’s all about. You know, I will stick by that because I studied the geological structure of this globe and you see this happen all around the world. One place is warm, one place is cold.

Q: Are you a fan of Donald Trump?

A: You know he was not my candidate. I think he’s doing a much better job than people think he is. The liberal left-wing press is absolutely trying to destroy him because they lost their sweetheart. And that was a shock to everybody. But he has a good cabinet. I’m very pleased with his cabinet and they’re good people. I don’t like his Twitters. That sort of thing. I don’t deal in them myself.

Q: Do you think folks should be concerned about the upcoming election? Or should we be doing anything about (Russian interference)?

A: I think we should be concerned. There’s an easy way to stop it. I see where Alaska’s begun to do that. The electronic voting. If you didn’t have electronic voting, you wouldn’t have any problems. … I don’t, very frankly, blame the Russians. If I can cause chaos in Russia, I’d do it in a minute. You know, they’re economical competitors, you know. But I think this whole Mueller investigation is again he’s going out — big deal, he indicted how many Russians?

Q: Think there’s any chance in the transportation plan, whatever comes out of it, of support for a road out of Juneau? Or into Juneau?

A: Well that was one of my projects and my bill, as you know, SAFETY-LU, and I just think it’s been used as a political football. Juneau had better get a road. Otherwise, I don’t think Juneau has a long life. As your population grows in the interior, and especially the Wasilla-Palmer, which is bigger than Anchorage right now, you got a new group of people. They’re very likely in time to say forget it, we’re not letting Juneau be the capital. A road where people can drive and come in and give accessibility to both sides, you’re connected and you’re part of — Juneau has a greater, greater ability to survive.

Following our interview, Young was expected to attend the Juneau Economic Development Council Innovation Summit, meet with city and state leaders, then conclude the evening with a fundraising dinner held in his honor by Juneau Republicans. Weather permitting, he was expected to leave Thursday.

• Contact reporter James Brooks at james.k.brooks@juneauempire.com or call 523-2258.



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