Four candidates are running for the U.S. House of Representatives in the Nov. 2 election. But the 16-term Republican incumbent Don Young holds a significant advantage over his opponents.
Young has raised $2.3 million for the campaign and spent $1.5 million. Thomas Higgins, Young's Democratic opponent, said he has contributed about $4,000 of his own money to his own campaign and raised about $500 in donations. Green Party candidate Timothy Feller and Libertarian Al Anders have reported no campaign contributions.
Higgins, a theater technician from Anchorage, said despite the difference in fundraising, people outraged about the war in Iraq will vote for him. Higgins ran for U.S. Senate in 2002 under the Green Party label, but lost the primary race to Jim Sykes. Between votes from Democrats and Greens, Higgins said he could turn the tide in the House race.
The administration of President George W. Bush lied to the American people about Iraq and did not build a true coalition of nations before invading, Higgins said. He said the federal government has not been forthright about its investigation into the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon and questioned whether the U.S. government was involved.
When asked if he believes Sept. 11 was a conspiracy between the administration and terrorists, Higgins said: "We don't know because the Bush administration refuses to investigate. We'll never know because they refuse to investigate."
Young, Alaska's sole Congressman since 1972, has two years remaining as chairman of the House Transportation Committee, where he crafts highway spending bills for the entire country. He said he might run for Speaker of the House following his term as head of Transportation.
Young has spent a lot of time campaigning for his colleagues in the House and Senate. He said he's traveled to Texas, Florida, Nebraska, California and Washington to plug for Republican candidates.
He returned to Alaska this week, spending more time campaigning for his Republican colleague Lisa Murkowski than for himself.
"I make no bones about it," Young said. "I do believe there's a lot of merit to Lisa being elected for the benefit of the state. Everybody says, 'Ted (Stevens) can work with the minority,' and yes, he can. But there's a difference between working with the minority as a minority member and working in the majority and being a chairman."
Young said the federal transportation funding bill is set to expend $299 billion next year, about $76 billion less than Young wanted. "I can't do that without raising taxes and we're not going to get a tax bill to raise the money," Young said. He said the Southeast panhandle needs road access out through Juneau, adding that he believes it would help prevent attempts to move the capital.
Young said the world has changed since Sept. 11, 2001, and road access could be a matter of life and death for the people of Juneau.
"We're an isolated area here and if the airplanes don't fly and the ships don't sail, where are we?" Young said. "There isn't enough people in this valley to have any food left to live longer than a week."
Libertarian candidate Al Anders said he has spent most of his time this election season focusing on passing a marijuana legalization initiative. The legalization effort has prevented him from attending candidate forums and campaigning. When asked why he ran, Anders said: "You've got to have a candidate for your members to vote for." Anders also ran a failed campaign in 2002 for lieutenant governor on the Libertarian ticket.
Green Party candidate Timothy Feller could not be reached for comment.
Timothy Inklebarger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.