Tuesday's general election marks the 10-year anniversary of the last time U.S. Rep. Don Young faced a candidate who succeeded in posing a formidable threat to his seat in Congress.
For more Juneau Empire coverage of the November 5 general election, please visit the Juneau Empire Elections Guide.
In 1990 and 1992 Young faced off against former Valdez Mayor John Devens. In both elections, Devens trailed Young at the polls by just 4 percentage points.
Despite serious opponents including state Sens. Jim Duncan and Georgianna Lincoln, no candidate since has been able to come within 20 percentage points of beating the 15-term incumbent Republican.
Clifford Mark Greene, 48, of Juneau, ran against Young as the Democratic candidate in the 2000 election, but captured only 17 percent of the vote. Young won that election with 70 percent of the vote.
This year Greene faces off against Young again, and is joined by Green Party candidate Russell deForest of Fairbanks and Libertarian Rob Clift of Anchorage, but Young doesn't seem too worried.
"I've been running hard, and very frankly - who's my opponent? Where's he from?" Young said at a recent press conference in Juneau. "The truth of the matter is, I'm running for two years from now, because there's an old saying I have: The rabbit that stops to look to see where the dog is never lives very long. The rabbit that runs continuously will live forever, and that's what I've been doing."
Young, 69, is the 10th highest ranking member of the U.S. House of Representatives and is chairman of the House Transportation Committee. He has announced he may make a run for speaker of the House.
Like the other candidates running against Young, Greene said he has raised little or no funds to run his campaign. Living in Southeast also has prevented him from attending debates in Anchorage.
Greene, who has worked as a paralegal, is unemployed and has been traveling in Canada for the last few weeks instead of campaigning. Greene's campaign platform largely is based on his opposition to U.S. missile defense and nuclear weapons policies.
Prior to leaving the country, Greene said he was running a word-of-mouth campaign and talking to people about the need for the United States to comply with the nuclear test ban treaty.
He said taxpayer money used for national missile defense is wasteful and would be better spent on affordable housing.
"I don't want to say that any kind of missile defense is not warranted; missile defense brought about through a multilateral missile program could be helpful," Greene said, noting missiles could be used to "shoot down asteroids if that becomes a problem."
Greene also supports building a gas pipeline and opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for oil drilling.
"I would like to see ANWR opened up under conditions," Greene said. "We need to see what the people of the coastal plain think about it."
DeForest, a 29-year-old massage therapist, said this is his first run for elected office and he hopes to raise Green Party issues through his campaign.
"I think it would be silly for me to say that I am running to win," deForest said, noting that if he did defeat Young, he would be happy to serve in Congress.
Like Greene, deForest said lobbying by military contractors has caused the federal government to place too much emphasis on military funding.
"I think we need a national military, but our military budget is higher than the military budgets of the next five highest nations combined," deForest said.
Instead of focusing efforts on a national missile defense program the federal government should concentrate on defending against small acts of terrorism within U.S. borders, deForest said.
He said he supports a national health care program and creating value-added industry within the state.
If elected, deForest said he would work to prevent oil drilling in ANWR and instead focus on cleaner fuel sources such as wind, hydrogen and natural gas.
The Libertarian Party's candidate also said the government should focus more on protecting U.S. borders instead of partaking in "military adventurism" in other parts of the world.
Clift, a 57-year-old former school administrator in Aniak who has lived in Anchorage for the last five years, said he is not a "rabid isolationist." He said the U.S. Constitution does not give the government the authority to invade other countries such as Iraq or Afghanistan.
Lands held by the federal government should be turned over to private ownership, Clift said, and all federal gun control laws should be reversed.
"Every government thinks (gun control laws) are a good idea because they are in the business of providing protection," Clift said. "Much like the Mafia, I guess."
Clift acknowledged his chances of beating Young are slim, but he said he refuses to remain quiet.
"I absolutely believe that people need to be involved," Clift said. "If you keep quiet, the government thinks you're happy."
Timothy Inklebarger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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