Protesters plan to attend Don Young public event

Congressman expected to appear at Anchorage salmon bake

Posted: Monday, August 13, 2007

ANCHORAGE - Five days after protesters taunted guests at private fundraiser for U.S. Rep. Don Young, the Alaska Republican has planned a public barbecue in downtown Anchorage that may draw more unwanted attention.

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Signs advertising the event appeared in Anchorage over the weekend.

"You're invited to Congressman Young's salmon bake and bar-b-que," read a broad, yellow sign that appeared on the Delaney Park Strip. Other signs followed.

The signs say the event will last from 3 to 7 p.m. Monday. By Friday afternoon, an organizer of the original protest was calling for another anti-Young rally.

Young is under federal investigation for his ties to VECO Corp. and dozens of protesters surrounded his fundraiser Wednesday at the Anchorage home of former Gov. Bill Sheffield.

Young's private fundraiser, a pig roast, was held annually. Until recently, the venue was the home of former VECO chief Bill Allen, who has pleaded guilty to bribing state legislators.

The Anchorage salmon bake is new. According to the city, Young's campaign indicated on July 26 it wanted to hold an event on the Park Strip. His campaign reserved 20 picnic tables at $20 each.

Young usually attends the state Republican Party annual picnic this time of year, said party chairman Randy Ruedrich. This year, the party pushed its meeting back to September in hopes of enticing Republican presidential candidates, he said.

Ruedrich said Young will be back in Washington, D.C. by then, so the congressman is holding the salmon bake in Anchorage instead.

"He's having his own community event because we moved ours," Ruedrich said.

Political consultant Art Hackney, who had strong words for Young critics at the fundraiser last week, said he cringed when he saw the sign advertising the public meet and greet for Young.

"That sounds like an invitation for a rather raucous event," he said.

John Farleigh, one of the protest organizers, said he is trying to rally people to show up at the salmon bake too. Farleigh said he wants to create an environment where Young does not even want to appear in public.

"If we could bump it up over 100 (people) next time, then we're looking at some momentum," he said.

Democrats Jake Metcalfe and Diane Benson have announced they will seek the Democratic nomination to run against Young.

"I find it pretty interesting that he is campaigning or getting out and having contact with people so early in the election year ... it signifies that he's worried," Metcalfe said.

Young last week said he was ready for a tough campaign.

"They say 'Oh, he's nicked,' you know, we can get him. Well, have at it. They have never been in a race till they get in a race with me," he said.

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