|Birth Day:||June 9, 1933|
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He served in the Army from 1955 to 1957 before moving to Alaska in 1959, not long after it became a state.
Young was born in Meridian, Sutter County, California. He earned an associate's degree in education from Yuba College in 1952 and a bachelor's degree from Chico State College in 1958. He served in the Army from 1955 to 1957.
Young moved to Alaska in 1959, not long after it became a state. He eventually settled in Fort Yukon, then a 700-person city on the Yukon River, seven miles above the Arctic Circle in Alaska's central interior region. He made a living in construction, fishing, trapping and gold mining. He captained a tugboat and ran a barge operation to deliver products and supplies to villages along the Yukon River. He still holds his mariner's license. During the winters, he taught fifth grade at the local Bureau of Indian Affairs elementary school.
Young began his political career in 1964 when he was elected mayor of Fort Yukon, serving from 1964 to 1968. The town's population dropped to 488 by 1970. He ran for the Alaska House of Representatives in 1964, but finished tenth, with the top seven candidates being elected for the multi-member district. He was elected to the State House in 1966 and re-elected in 1968. Young served in the Alaska House of Representatives from 1967 to 1971. He said he "loved" the job before he "got ambitious" and ran for the Alaska Senate in 1970. He served in the Alaska Senate from 1971 to 1973. He was elected to the two-member District I alongside long-serving Republican State Senator John Butrovich. He said he "hated" the State Senate and, after encouragement from his first wife, ran for Congress in 1972.
Democratic State Senator Nick Begich was elected to the House of Representatives in 1970, to succeed Republican Howard Wallace Pollock, who ran unsuccessfully for the Republican nomination for Governor of Alaska. Young ran against Begich in 1972 and placed second in the August 22 open primary with 13,958 votes (25.60%) to Begich's 37,873 (69.45%). Begich disappeared in a plane crash on October 16, 1972, 22 days before the November 7 general election. Begich won the general election with 53,651 votes (56.24%) to Young's 41,750 (43.76%) but was declared dead on December 29.
Young lost his first race for Congress in November 1972 to incumbent Democrat Nick Begich, who had disappeared with Representative Hale Boggs in an Alaskan plane crash weeks before the election. Begich was declared legally dead in December 1972. Young won the resulting special election to fill the seat in March 1973. Young has been reelected 21 times, usually without significant opposition, although he faced strong challenges in the 2008 primary election and 1974, 1990, 1992, and 2008 general elections. He won his 2016 primary with over 70% of the vote and faced Democrat Steve Lindbeck and Libertarian Jim McDermott in the general election, where he captured 50% of the vote to win his 23rd term in office, and won again in 2018, against candidate Alyse Galvin, whose party was undeclared, with Young receiving 52.6% of the vote.
Young ran in the special election on March 6, 1973, and defeated Democrat Emil Notti by 35,044 votes (51.41%) to 33,123 (48.59%). He won a full term in 1974 with 51,641 votes (53.84%) to Democratic State Senator Willie Hensley's 44,280 (46.16%). He credits his victory to his leadership of the fight for the Trans-Alaskan Pipeline System.
Young was reelected with at least 55% of the vote in all of the subsequent seven elections. He defeated former State Senator Eben Hopson with 71% of the vote in 1976, State Senator Patrick Rodey with 55.41% of the vote in 1978, Kevin "Pat" Parnell with 73.79% of the vote in 1980 and Dave Carlson with 70.84% of the vote in 1982.
In 1984 and 1986, he defeated Nick Begich's wife, Pegge Begich, by 113,582 votes (55.02%) to 86,052 (41.68%) and by 101,799 votes (56.47%) to 74,053 (41.08%), respectively. He defeated Peter Gruenstein with 62.5% of the vote in 1988 and then faced John Devens, the Mayor of Valdez, in 1990 and 1992. Young defeated him by 99,003 votes (51.66%) to 91,677 (47.84%) in 1990 and then faced a serious challenge in 1992. He was challenged in the Republican primary by State Senator Virginia M. Collins and defeated her by 24,869 votes (52.98%) to 19,774 (42.12%). In the general election, he was reelected against Devens by 111,849 votes (46.78%) to 102,378 (42.82%). This is both the lowest winning percentage of his career and the only time he has won without a majority of the vote.
He defeated former Alaska Commissioner of Economic Development and 1992 Democratic U.S. Senate nominee Tony Smith with 56.92% of the vote in 1994, State Senator Georgianna Lincoln with 59.41% of the vote in 1996 and State Senator and former Speaker of the Alaska House of Representatives Jim Duncan with 62.55% of the vote in 1998. He defeated attorney Clifford Mark Greene with 69.56% of the vote in 2000 and with 74.66% of the vote in 2002, the largest winning percentage of his career. He received 213,216 votes (71.34%) against Thomas Higgins in 2004, the most votes he has ever received in a single election. In 2006, he defeated writer, dramatist and video production consultant Diane E. Benson with 56.57% of the vote.
During a 1994 House debate touching on the question of Alaska Natives' right to sell sex organs of endangered animals for the purpose of aphrodisiacs, he pulled out an 18-inch penis bone of a walrus, better known as an "oosik", and brandished it like a sword on the House floor at the face of the head of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
After the 1995 Republican takeover of the House, Young chaired the Committee on Natural Resources, which he renamed the "Committee on Resources". The name was changed back by Democrats in 2006 and has since been retained by Republican chairmen. He chaired the Committee until 2001, then chairing the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure from 2001 to 2007.
At an assembly at Fairbanks' West Valley High School in 1995, Young was answering questions about cutting federal funding for the arts. He said that such funding had "photographs of people doing offensive things," and "things that are absolutely ridiculous." When asked for an example, Young quickly replied "buttfucking", in reference to Robert Mapplethorpe's photographic exhibition The Perfect Moment. After receiving criticism for the use of that obscenity, Young explained his choice of words by saying he had tried 'to educate' teens.
In March 1998, Young brought a bill to the House floor allowing voters in Puerto Rico to vote on continuing its commonwealth status or becoming either a state or independent, the legislation passing by a single vote.
In the 2005 Highway Bill, Young helped secure $941 million for 119 "special projects," including a $231 million bridge in Anchorage that a rider in the bill named for Young himself.
In 2005, Young and Stevens earmarked $223 million for building the enormous Gravina Island Bridge from Ketchikan to Gravina Island, which also contains Ketchikan's airport. The bridge would be used for access by emergency vehicles, as well as passengers. There is a small ferry for cars and passengers that travels the 1/4 mile (400 m) crossing in 3 to 7 minutes and runs every half-hour. Critics assailed this as pork barrel spending at taxpayers' expense and the New York Times, memorably quoted Keith Ashdown, spokesman for the Taxpayers for Common Sense: "It's a gold-plated bridge to nowhere." "At a time when we have bridges and roads crumbling around the United States, and traffic congestion worse than ever, why build a $200 million project that will serve only a few hundred people?" The Gravina Island Bridge was awarded a Golden Fleece Award by that federal budget watchdog organization in 2003. After criticism from citizens and others in Congress, lawmakers de-funded the bridge and instead funneled the money to Alaska's Department of Transportation, allowing the Governor of Alaska to start road construction after the Alaska Legislature funded the project with the directed monies.
In July 2007, fellow Republican Congressman Scott Garrett of New Jersey proposed an amendment to strike money in a spending bill for native Alaskan and Hawaiian educational programs. Young defended the funds on the floor of the House, saying, "You want my money, my money." He also said, "Those who bite me will be bitten back." Young went on to suggest that conservative Republicans such as Garrett lost the Republicans their majority in the 2006 election by challenging spending earmarks, and made several critical remarks about the state of New Jersey. While Garrett did not ask for an official reprimand, other conservative Republicans took exception to Young's claim that the funds in question represented "his" money. Members of the conservative Republican Study Committee gave Garrett a standing ovation later in the day during the group's weekly meeting and Virginia Foxx of North Carolina compared Young's earmarks to "legal theft."
On July 24, 2007, the Wall Street Journal reported that Young was under federal investigation for possibly taking bribes, illegal gratuities or unreported gifts from VECO Corporation, an Anchorage-based company. The company's top two executives had already pleaded guilty to bribing members of the Alaska legislature. The Journal said a VECO executive held fundraisers called "the Pig Roast" for Young every August for ten years. Between 1996 and 2006, Young received $157,000 from VECO employees and its political action committee. In the first half of 2007, he spent more than $250,000 of his campaign contributions on legal fees.
Young believes marriage should be between a man and a woman, but has made no comment or engaged in legislative efforts to overturn the 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges Supreme Court ruling that legalized gay marriage nationwide. He has compared gay relations to bulls having sex. In 2007, he voted against protections for gay and lesbian people in the workplace. He has stated that, "I've hired a person of a different orientation," continuing with, "That's personal. ... I do believe in the Bible. Always have and always will. But hiring is different." He has voted for making gay adoptions in the District of Columbia for people who are not related by blood or marriage illegal, and in 2009 voted against sexual orientation being enforced as a protected status against hate crimes. Young voted in support of the FY 2020 National Defense Authorization Act, which permitted LGBT service members who were discharged for their sexual orientation to retroactively update their discharge status to "honorable" if they had previously been designated "dishonorable" for being LGBT. Young has been given a 3% score on gay rights in the 115th Congress by the HRC.
Young received the endorsement of Mike Huckabee's political action committee, Huck PAC, in June 2008.
He won reelection with 50% of the vote to Berkowitz's 45% and Wright's 5%. Berkowitz conceded defeat on November 18, 2008.
A confession signed by Bill Allen, the former chief of VECO, was released in October 2009. Allen swore that from 1993 to August 2006, both he and his deputy at VECO, Rick Smith, "provided things of value to United States Representative A," a reference to Young. For example, in June 2006, Smith obtained a set of golf clubs, costing approximately $1,000, that Smith gave to Young. Although Young was obligated in 2006 to report gifts with a value of more than $335, he didn't report receiving any gifts on the personal financial disclosure form he filed with the House of Representatives for that year.
Young was married to the former Lula Fredson, an indigenous Gwich'in. She volunteered her time serving as the manager of her husband's Washington, D.C. congressional office. They had two daughters and were members of the Episcopal Church. Lula died on August 1, 2009, at the age of 67.
Young ran for a 20th term in 2010. He was challenged in the Republican primary by John R. Cox and Sheldon Fisher, a former telecommunications executive, winning with 74,117 votes (70.36%). He defeated Democratic State Representative Harry Crawford in the general election by 175,384 votes (68.96%) to 77,606 (30.51%).
In August 2010, following the reversal of the seven felony guilty verdicts in U.S. Senator Ted Stevens's case, the investigation launched by the FBI was closed. The Public Integrity Section (OPI) of the Department of Justice (DOJ) concluded it could not obtain a conviction, but forwarded the evidentiary findings of its investigation to the House Ethics Committee. The committee, composed of five Republicans and five Democrats, subsequently made no official findings. In 2011, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) tried to obtain documents pertaining to the investigation, but was rebuffed. CREW persisted, obtaining some documents and being awarded $86,000 for the DOJ's failure to produce those documents and the costs of litigation. In 2012, Federal Judge Gladys Kessler determined that Young had "diminished" his privacy interests by having made statements both to the press and on the House floor, regarding the investigation and accusations against him.
In late 2010, Obama administration officials stated that the Deepwater Horizon spill exceeded the Exxon Valdez spill, as they estimated that the gusher had spewed between 15 million US gallons (57,000 m) and 40 million US gallons (150,000 m) of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. Young claimed that the oil pumping into the Gulf was not an "environmental disaster", stating that it was a "natural phenomena" as "oil has seeped into this ocean for centuries, will continue to do it. During World War II there was (sic) over ten million barrels of oil spilt from ships and no natural catastrophe. We will lose some birds, we will lose some fixed sealife, but overall it will recover." According to the Flow Rate Technical Group, the Deepwater Horizon blowout amounted to about 4.9 million barrels (210 million US gal; 780,000 m) of oil, exceeding the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill as the largest ever to originate in U.S.-controlled waters and the 1979 Ixtoc I oil spill as the largest spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
On November 18, 2011, Young got into an argument during a Congressional hearing with Douglas Brinkley, a historian who teaches at Rice University in Texas, over the idea of drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. During Brinkley's testimony Young was not present in the room, yet still responded to the speech Brinkley had made. Young himself commented that his absence during Brinkley's testimony was attributable to a pre-scheduled vote on the House floor. Young not only referred to Brinkley's argument as "garbage", but also addressed Brinkley as "Mr. Rice," (rather than Dr. Brinkley). Brinkley responded with remarks about Young's own education, stating, "I know you went to Yuba College and couldn't graduate." Young's reaction, "I'll say anything I want to say! You just be quiet!", was met with Brinkley's refusal, and response that Young, "didn't own [him]" and quipping that as a taxpayer, he pays Young's salary. The two continued arguing intermittently throughout the hearing, with the committee chairman ultimately threatening Brinkley with removal.
In 2012, Young drew two challengers in the Republican party, but easily defeated them with 58,789 votes (78.59%). In the general election, he defeated State Representative Sharon Cissna by 185,296 votes (63.94%) to 82,927 (28.62%).
In March 2013, the House Ethics Committee created another special committee to investigate allegations that Young improperly accepted gifts, used campaign funds for personal expenses, failed to report gifts in financial disclosure documents, and made false statements to federal officials. Young said, "it will go forever. I've been under a cloud all my life. I'm sort of like living in Juneau. It rains on you all the time. You don't even notice it."
On March 28, 2013, Young caused some controversy when he used the ethnic slur "wetbacks" during a radio interview to describe Latino migrant farmworkers who worked at his father's ranch when he was growing up. Young issued a statement later that day saying that he "meant no disrespect" and that he "used a term that was commonly used during my days growing up on a farm in central California". The Associated Press said that while Young explained his statement, he "did not apologize". Prominent figures in the Republican Party, including House Speaker John Boehner and Senator John Cornyn, condemned the remarks as "offensive" and "derogatory".
On March 29, 2013, a Latino advocacy group, Presente.org, called for Young's resignation in reaction to his use of the slur. On March 29, 2013, Young issued a formal apology for his remarks, stating, "I apologize for the insensitive term", and that "it was a poor choice of words."
In 2014, Young received 79,393 votes (74.29%) in the Republican primary against three challengers. In the general election, he defeated Democrat Forrest Dunbar by 142,572 votes (50.97%) to 114,602 (40.97%). Young was the only statewide incumbent in Alaska to win reelection that year, as Republican Governor Sean Parnell was defeated by Independent Bill Walker, and Democratic U.S. Senator Mark Begich was defeated by Republican Dan Sullivan. Young won reelection in 2016 with 50% of the vote in a four-way race.
The Ethics Committee formed a subcommittee charged with determining whether Young broke the law. In 2014, the Committee issued a rebuke to Young after finding he had failed to disclose gifts totaling over $60,000 between 2001 and 2013.
On October 21, 2014, Young addressed an assembly of students at Wasilla High School, shortly after a student there committed suicide. During a question and answer session, he said that the student's suicide had been caused by a lack of support from family and friends. During the assembly, Young also recalled a story about drinking alcohol in Paris, and used profanity several times, officials from the school reported.
On August 17, 2014, Young announced his engagement to Anne Garland Walton, a flight nurse from Fairbanks. On June 9, 2015, Young and Walton married. She was 76 years old at the time.
In 2016, Young was once again under scrutiny for failing to report inherited property assets for 25 years, as well as the value of oil and gas leases consummated only seven months after he left his six-year chairmanship of the United States House Committee on Natural Resources.
During the 2016 Republican presidential primary, Young originally supported Jeb Bush, and later John Kasich. In April 2016 he said, "I'm not supporting Donald Trump," and when asked about Trump's success in the primaries, Young said that Trump's popularity was due to "a bunch of idiots following a pied piper over the edge of the cliff!" and that he blamed the people who voted for Trump. However, by the December before the 2017 inauguration, he was more supportive of Trump's accomplishments and proposed policies. By September 2019, he called the investigation and the Trump impeachment inquiry "...a waste of time." On November 1, 2019, Young "head-butted a camera after people with the progressive group MoveOn trailed him down a congressional hallway to an elevator, persistently asking whether it was acceptable for a foreign government to interfere in a U.S. election".
On May 4, 2017, though he had indicated two months earlier that he would oppose repeal of the Affordable Care Act, he ultimately voted for its repeal. Governor Bill Walker said Alaska, "would be the most negatively affected if the proposed legislation is signed into law as is. Alaskans already pay the highest health care premiums in the country." His state delegation colleague, the senior U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski, opposed the removal of the provision in the current Act that eliminated discrimination against those with pre-existing conditions, saying it wasn't "what Alaskans are telling me they think is an acceptable response." It was estimated that annual policy costs for coverage under the state's exchange would rise by $12,599.
In 2017, former Speaker of the United States House of Representatives John Boehner told Politico that Young had once pinned him against a wall inside the House and 10-inch knife to his throat.
In September 2017, during a House floor debate on an amendment to the 2018 government spending package for wildlife management and national preserves in Alaska, Young made critical comments towards colleague Pramila Jayapal, including referring to the 51-year old Jayapal as "young lady", stating that she "doesn't know a damn thing what she's talking about", and claiming that her speech on the amendment "was really nonsense. It was written by an interest group". The exchange led to a temporary suspension of proceedings: upon their resumption, Young acknowledged in an address to the floor that his comments were "out of order" and apologized to Jayapal, which she accepted.
Young has said he wants to see a clean repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Although he supports repealing the ACA, he said in March 2017 he would not vote on an earlier version of the AHCA (a healthcare plan to repeal and revise parts of the ACA) because it would have too much of a negative impact on healthcare costs in Alaska.
The AHCA would also stop the Medicaid expansion that was provided by Obamacare, which gives healthcare coverage to more than 27,000 of Young's constituents or about 3.7% of the Alaska population. For those reasons, Young was a key House member preventing the AHCA from going to vote. When the AHCA did not pass, Young said it was a "victory for Alaska." However, despite those statements, and being officially "undecided" because of the disproportionate impact on Alaskans, Young voted yes for the AHCA on May 4, 2017, without any significant changes to improving Alaska subsidies.
Young has stated he does not believe in conducting town halls (district meetings for officials to meet and speak with constituents in a town hall setting). When asked for a face-to-face meeting with his constituents in April 2017, in his refusal an aide stated, "The modern town hall has taken an unfortunate turn as a 'show' for the media and are (sic) unproductive for meaningful dialogue." Young's meetings in Alaska are primarily made with elected officials, business groups, service clubs, and gatherings of Republicans. On April 20, 2017, residents started a town hall meeting by themselves, speaking to Young through a video camera with a color photo of Young to represent him in person. When speaking to the Alaska Municipal League in Juneau in February 2018, National Rifle Association Board member Young asked "How many millions of people were shot and killed because they were unarmed? Fifty million in Russia."
Young ran for a 24th term in 2018, defeating Alyse Galvin, the candidate, who with her affiliation undeclared, had won the combined Alaska Democratic Party, Alaska Libertarian Party and Alaskan Independence Party primary. He received almost 54% of the vote. On January 26, 2019 Young announced he would run for a 25th term in 2020. Young won the Republican primary with 77% of the vote.
In Bob Woodward's book Fear: Trump in the White House, published in 2018, the author recounted an impromptu conversation FBI Director Robert Mueller, who led the agency from 2001 through 2013, had with attorney John Dowd, who represented Young in the ethics violation case and other matters. He asked Dowd, "What are you up to?" Dowd responded, "I'm representing Congressman Don Young." Mueller responded, "That crook? How could you do that?"
In 2018 Young promised to sign the Congressional Review Act, but failed to do so, or sign the discharge petition.
At the start of the 116th Congress, Young was the longest-serving current House member. Due to his long tenure in the House and that of former Senator Ted Stevens, Alaska has been considered to have had clout in national politics far beyond its small population (it is the 47th smallest, ahead of only North Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming). He is often called "Alaska's third senator." On March 5, 2019, he became the longest-serving Republican in congressional history.
Young supports legalizing cannabis at the federal level, having introduced the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act in 2019 (and also cosponsoring the 2017 version of the bill). Other legislation that Young has introduced includes the CARERS Act in 2015 (to legalize medical cannabis at the federal level) and the SAFE Banking Act in 2017 (to improve access to banking services for cannabis businesses). In February 2017, Young launched the Congressional Cannabis Caucus along with Reps. Earl Blumenauer, Dana Rohrabacher, and Jared Polis. Young toured several cannabis facilities in Alaska in October 2019.
In a 2019 op-ed in The Hill, Young appeared to take a conciliatory position on climate change, and called for policy changes that could reduce carbon emissions.
In 2019, Young and Debbie Dingell introduced legislation providing for a long-term reauthorization of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.
In response to an increase in suicides among active-duty service members at Fort Wainwright in 2019, Young called on the U.S. Army to investigate the cause of the increased suicide rate.
In 2019, Young was the sole Republican to vote in support of the Humanitarian Standards for Individuals in Customs and Border Protection Custody Act. This legislation would set minimum standards for Customs and Border Patrol detention facilities, including requiring health screenings and ensuring that basic needs of detained migrants, such as access to food and water for detainees, are being met.
On November 11, 2020, the Associated Press called the race for Young.
In 2020, Young introduced the Emergency Family Stabilization Act to support children, youth, and families facing homelessness amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill requires that federal funding meet the needs of pregnant women, pregnant and parenting youth, children with disabilities, LGBTQIA individuals, and racial and ethnic minority populations.
Young voted in support of legislation authorizing the creation of a Commission on the Social Status of Black Men and Boys. In 2020, the bill was signed into law. The commission is intended to examine societal disparities that Black men and boys face at disproportionately high rates.
On August 22, 2020, Young was one of 26 Republicans to vote in favor of a $25 billion relief package for the Post Office.
On November 12, 2020, Young was diagnosed with coronavirus.
Currently, Don Young is 89 years, 5 months and 17 days old. Don Young will celebrate 90th birthday on a Friday 9th of June 2023.
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