Protesters clash with supporters at Young picnic

Signs wave high at public event

Posted: Tuesday, August 14, 2007

ANCHORAGE - Protesters and supporters of U.S. Rep. Don Young mostly stayed away from each other Monday for the first two and a half hours of a four-hour barbecue put on by the campaign for the Alaska Republican.

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But when the state's only congressman - who is under federal investigation - showed up at Anchorage's downtown Park Strip and started passing out burgers, the grass in front of the serving trays became a mosh pit of signs and sweaty people shouting for Young to resign.

"Hey, hey, ho, ho, old Don Young has got to go," protesters chanted as they marched in from a street corner, where they had been waiving signs to commuters on their evening drive home.

Young supporters responded with yellow and blue signs of their own, forming a barrier between protesters and the serving line.

Young, hands in disposable gloves, smiled and waived to his detractors. On his way to the buffet line, he was more focused on the hundreds standing in line for free grub.

"Big turnout. I love it," Young said.

As far as numbers, the food line completely dominated the number of protesters, which reached 50 to 60.

Steven Dougherty, Young's campaign manager, said the caterer planned for 2,000 and then went out for more food almost before the first beans and potato salad were served. Three hours into the event, was still more than a block long with roughly 300 people in line.

Aaron Poschman, who waited nearly two hours for his plate, was one who acknowledged he was there for the free eats. He guessed most people were.

"I would say 80 percent," Poschman said. "The other 20 are here because they support him financially and they're here to show face.

He's been a Young supporter in the past, he said - because there has been no one else on the ballot. He said he would consider another candidate next year.

"We'll see what they have to say," he said. "Of course I'm going to have an open mind about it."

Young is being investigated for connections to VECO Corp., the Anchorage-based company whose former top two executives have pleaded guilty to bribing Alaska state lawmakers. He has been criticized for backing projects that aid supporters, including a $10 million earmark in a federal highway spending bill to study extension of a Florida highway that could benefit a builder who hosted a fundraiser for Young.

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