Young predicts no GOP losses in Congress

Incumbent equally optimistic about his own election chances

Posted: Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Don Young predicts there will be no Republican congressional seats lost this election.

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Republican Young, who is seeking his 18th term as Alaska's at-large representative, told The Associated Press in a recent interview that the idea the GOP will lose its majority in the Nov. 7 election is a media creation designed "to make a stir."

Democrats need to gain 15 seats to win control of the House, and they hope to capitalize on voters' unhappiness with the Iraq war to recapture it and possibly the Senate.

Young, the House's third-ranking Republican, says that is not going to happen.

"I'm predicting we're not going to lose any seats," Young said. "My prediction is as good as anybody else's. The day after the election, we'll see who was right."

Young, 73, is equally optimistic about his own re-election chances against Democratic challenger Diane Benson, who has made veterans and the Iraq war her top campaign issue.

Young has pulled 70 percent or more of the vote in every election this decade. This campaign, he barely acknowledges Benson - "I don't know my opponent" - saving his venom instead for the press, particularly in reaction to a story by the state's largest newspaper, the Anchorage Daily News, that he is running an absentee campaign.

Young's public appearances have been few. He has shunned most interview requests by the press and has participated in just one debate with Benson.

That prompted an Oct. 20 story in the Anchorage Daily News about Young's absence from the campaign trail, which was followed the next day by an editorial that said Young's "easy rides to re-election have apparently gone to his head."

Young said this campaign is similar to those he has run in the past, and his aim is to meet people, not to satisfy the media's expectations, especially those of the Daily News, which he calls the "Daily Screw."

"I'm not running the campaign for the Daily Screw," Young said. "My job is to hear people, find out what's on their minds."

Daily News Senior Vice President and Editor Pat Dougherty said Young's criticism of the newspaper's coverage is simply the well-worn political tactic of shooting the messenger. Dougherty said he does not know of one instance in which Young has questioned the accuracy of the newspaper's reporting, despite the moniker he has coined.

To Benson, Young is overconfident and out of touch with Alaskans. She said she is closing in on the incumbent's lead, but she does not expect Young to acknowledge it.

"I don't know that you can scare such arrogance. I think his arrogance may be his downfall," Benson said.

Benson, a Tlingit writer and actress who ran as the Green Party's candidate for governor in 2002, said her campaign has built momentum by going out to communities. She said she asks residents there whether Young has helped improve their lives. She asks why such an energy-rich state cannot provide villages with fuel.

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