Rep. Don Young, Republican of Alaska and the longest-serving member of the House, held an unexpectedly serious challenge Wednesday from Alyse Galvin, an independent, to win his 25th term as the state’s only Congressman.
Mr. Young, 87, was in a match against Ms. Galvin, 55, a community organizer whom he defeated two years ago. She used knowledge from that last run and widespread dissatisfaction with the state’s economic woes to pose a serious challenge to Mr. Young. President Trump’s declining numbers in the state also added to his vulnerability, but on Wednesday the president won there by a wide margin, as did Mr. Young and Senator Dan Sullivan, a Republican who had also been seen as at risk.
While Ms. Galvin attributed early career achievements to Mr. Young for Alaska, she argued that his power waned when the Republicans were exiled to the minority and he was forced to resign from the committee chair due to tenure restrictions and ethical issues. She said that as a member of the democratic majority, she could have more influence over the name of the state.
Mr. Young denied her characterization on the grounds that his bipartisan relationships and vast experience still made him a force in Washington, and insisted that as a freshman to Washington, she would not have the ability to accomplish much for the state .
Ms. Galvin was running as an independent despite having secured her place on the ballot by dominating the Democratic primary and making it clear that she would be part of the Washington convention. Mr Young said that democratic control of Washington is a threat to Alaska’s freedoms.
A former public school teacher and tug captain, Mr. Young was drawn to the state by Jack London’s book “The Call of the Wild” in 1959, shortly after becoming statehood. He was a little wild himself after earning a reputation as a contentious figure on Capitol Hill.
He was charged and fined by the House Ethics Committee in 2014 for receiving thousands of dollars in free travel, lodging, and gifts over an extended period of time in just one example of his ethical dispute. But Alaskans had shown a willingness to tolerate his behavior because he could steer federal projects home.
Mr. Young is a holdover from a time when the work of Congress was in large part driven by so-called ear tags, special projects that would allow lawmakers to designate federal funding for their counties and states. He worked with Alaska’s senators, including Ted Stevens, a Republican who chaired the Appropriations Committee in the early 2000s to secure billions for the state. They got to the point where Congress put a ban on ear tags because they were sometimes questionable and occasionally corrupt.
In March 2019, Mr. Young became the longest-serving Republican in House history, surpassing former Speaker Joe Cannon. Most of the population of Alaska knew no other member of the House except Mr. Young during their lifetime.