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Alaska Legend Don Young Wins 25th Term in Congress, Announces He’s COVID-Positive
2020’s KEY EDUCATION VOTES: See our full coverage of the 46 races that could reshape America’s schools following Election Day — and get the latest updates on state policies and students’ challenges during the pandemic by signing up for The 74 Newsletter.
U.S. Rep. Don Young, a 47-year veteran of the House of Representatives and a legend of Alaska politics, fought off challenger Alyse Galvin to win his 25th term, local officials reported Wednesday. With 100 percent of the vote reported, the incumbent had prevailed by a 57-43 margin.
In a dramatic turn, just hours after the final results were reported, the 87-year-old Young also announced in a tweet that he tested positive for COVID-19.
A Republican, Young is his party’s longest-serving member to ever serve in Congress. His mix of conservative politics, mastery of appropriations, and long-running ties with constituent groups have generally insulated him from Democratic opponents; a penchant for crude language and offbeat behavior — he once held a knife to the throat of then-Rep. John Boehner, though the men later became close friends — have also contributed to his national profile.
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But in Galvin he faced a formidable candidate. A former teacher and homeschool mother, the 55-year-old helped the advocacy group Great Alaska Schools several years ago to lobby for more school funding. Faced with a global crash in oil prices, the state — which derives nearly all of its operating revenue from the petroleum industry — has imposed unpopular K-12 cuts over the last few years.
Running as a novice candidate in 2018, Galvin gave Young one of the toughest races of his political career by holding him to a 6.5 point victory. Key to her appeal was that even as she won the Democratic Party’s nomination both that year and in 2020, she ran her campaigns as an independent — a necessary strategy in one of the nation’s reddest states.
She was unable to replicate her success on Election Night, as the GOP enjoyed surprising triumphs in House races around the country. Still, with Young approaching his 90s, Galvin may opt for another try. As one Alaska political scientist told The 74 in a pre-election preview, “She might get a third run because the Democrats aren’t thinking that, by funding her, they’re guaranteed a win. My hunch is that they’re grooming her and working with her because Don Young is old, and she could be someone they’re thinking about keeping in the wings.”
Young, who has been criticized for downplaying the dangers of COVID and appearing maskless at public events, said that he felt strong and was working from home.
2020’s KEY EDUCATION VOTES: See our full coverage of the 46 races that could reshape America’s schools following Election Day — and get the latest updates on state policies and students’ challenges during the pandemic by signing up for The 74 Newsletter.Submit a Letter to the Editor