ANCHORAGE - U.S. Rep. Don Young is to be the target of a weeklong advertising blitz from Democrats who are using Independence Day to highlight what they say is the congressman's lack of support for troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
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The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said Thursday it plans to question Young's commitment to the troops serving in Iraq or Afghanistan. Next week, radio ads will question Young's commitment to increasing salary, retirement and other benefits to troops.
Young, who is running for re-election next year, says he's not surprised by the effort, but questions the assertions.
"This is nothing new," Young said. "They will try to discredit me. My record is as good as it's always been. That's why veterans have supported me every time I've run."
The ads could signal a push by the national Democratic party to grab Alaska's lone congressional seat in the 2008 election.
The Democratic committee has indicated it would provide financial and logistical support to a strong challenger against Young, spokesman Fernando Cuevas has said. Democrats see Young as vulnerable, especially if more questions arise over federal earmarks, such as the dollars Young directed to a Florida road project.
The $10 million for the project came in an earmark by Young, who made it clear it could be used only for that road.
Southwest Florida newspapers and the New York Times detailed the connection between Young and Michigan builder Daniel J. Aronoff, whose companies own thousands of acres of undeveloped land that would increase in value if the were extended and connected to the interstate.
Aronoff, of Bloomfield Hills, Mich., had hosted a fundraiser in 2005 that brought in $40,000 to Young's campaign.
Young will be one of 14 Republicans nationally targeted by the Democratic committee starting Monday. Drive-time radio ads will run for five days, including on the Fourth of July.
"Next week, Republicans are going home to talk up their support for our nation's troops and veterans. But, their constituents deserve to know that the Republican record on veterans is all talk and no action," said Chairman Chris Van Hollen. "America's troops and veterans deserve more than patriotic speeches this Independence Day."
The ads specifically criticize Young for voting against a $1,500 bonus for troops in Iraq and Afghanistan that was contained in a House resolution in 2003.
Young didn't dispute the claim, but says the provision he voted against was too narrow in scope.
He said the general assertion of his limited support of veterans is misplaced.
"I don't know how they can say that," Young said. "I've put more effort into new (veterans) hospitals. That didn't happen by accident."
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