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Crawford hoping to unseat Young

Posted: Friday, September 10, 2010

State Rep. Harry Crawford, D-Anchorage, wants to become U.S. Rep. Harry, Crawford, D-Alaska.

Michael Penn/Juneau Empire
Michael Penn/Juneau Empire

Standing in his way is current Rep. Don Young, who has been Alaska's one and only member of the U.S. House of Representatives since 1973.

Crawford, though, said he hopes recent controversy surrounding Young will be his biggest ally.

"The man has huge negatives, and it goes across all sectors of the population," he said during a campaign trip to Juneau Thursday.

Crawford, a former ironworker who has retained his Louisiana drawl, hopes to unseat Young as he did former Alaska House Speaker Ramona Barnes to win a Republican-leaning seat in the state House in 2000.

Young has clashed with fellow Republicans in Congress, and has been stripped of his seniority by the Republican caucus, in part over accusations of ethical transgressions.

Crawford said that eliminates the argument for keeping Young because of his seniority, but that he'd do a better job anyway.

"I would represent Alaska, instead of big money special interests from around the country," he said.

That's a dig at Young's penchant for earmarks, individual spending items inserted into the federal budget. Young has obtained numerous earmarks for Alaska, but also in other states.

Two years ago, Young turned back a tough primary challenge from then-Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell, who attacked his proclivity for spending.

After overcoming Parnell and his fiscally conservative voters, Young said the first thing he was going to upon his return to Washington, D. C. was to get more money for Alaska.

And in some of those earmark cases, they were accompanied by large campaign contributions made close to the time of the earmark.

VECO Corp.'s Bill Allen regularly hosted a "pig roast" campaign fundraiser for Young, without reporting the costs as campaign contributions.

Allen is now in federal prison after pleading guilty to bribery charges in other cases, but Young has not faced any charges himself.

"Someone needs to hold him accountable," Crawford said.

Young's recent assertion that BP's huge Gulf of Mexico oil spill was not an environmental disaster, but was instead a "natural phenomena" particularly galled Crawford, a Louisiana native.

"It made me see red," he said.

Crawford, a long-time union member and supporter said he'd side in Congress with working people.

A hotly contested U.S. Senate race between Republican Joe Miller, Democrat Scott McAdams, and possibly Lisa Murkowski, threatens to take attention away from the Congressional race. Crawford said it may actually benefit him by energizing voters, however.

"It feels like wind under my wings," he said.

One item Crawford won't attack Young on is in the Gravina Island Bridge in Ketchikan, for which Young famously helped secure earmarks worth hundreds of millions - and which wound up sparking a national controversy.

"Iron workers love to build bridges," Crawford said.

Facing a firestorm of criticism that labeled the bridge from Ketchikan to Gravina Island as a "Bridge to Nowhere," Congress withdrew the earmark and then-Gov. Sarah Palin spent most of the money elsewhere.

Crawford said if there's a way to finance the bridge in which there could be a local cost share, he'd be willing to seek Congressional earmarks.

He said he's worked on several bridge projects in his ironworker career.

"Most of those bridges were bridges to nowhere that became somewhere," he said.

Contact Pat Forgey at 523-2250 or at patrick.forgey@juneauempire.com.



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