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Members of Alaska’s political leadership congratulated the late U.S. Representative Don Young Saturday at a public memorial to celebrate his life.
Young, who was the longest-serving Republican in U.S. House history, died March 19. He was 88 years old.
“Don was someone who could not only count the years of his life, but he could count the life in his years. He lived a great life, it was full. He lived those 88 years to the fullest,” said Lisa Murkowski in the United States. R-Alaska, said.
According to Alaska’s News Source, Murkowski noted that Young was only the 43rd U.S. citizen to have had the privilege of being in state on Capitol Hill, calling it the highest honor a congressman could have.
“I learned early on that you never underestimate Don Young, because Don never forgot where he came from,” Murkowski said. “Don Young was a people man, and he built relationships that lasted because they were honest, they were real, and he was loyal.”
U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, beamed with pride at how Young pushed an amendment through Congress during his first term that helped get the Trans-Alaska pipeline started.
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“Probably more than any House member, Don Young knew how to get things done,” Sullivan said. “In DC there are talkers and doers, show horses and work horses. From day one, Don was a doer, a work horse, and the man has done that for all of us here in Alaska.”
Gov. Mike Dunleavy said that on his way to the memorial service, he replayed old voicemails Young left for him.
“Don Young was not just a congressman, he was first and foremost a human being,” Dunleavy said.
Young was the longest serving Republican in U.S. House history, serving 49 years. He was known as the Dean of the House for his seniority. He had a brash and abrasive style at times, but was seen as willing to work across the aisle on issues to help Alaska.
Saturday’s memorial in Alaska was the third public ceremony honoring Young. He lied in state at the United States Capitol on Tuesday, and a service was held in the Washington, DC area on Wednesday.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday called Young an “endearing colleague” who had a gruff demeanor and often a colorful vocabulary. But she said he was a “serious legislator, a very serious legislator” and a “stubborn and determined champion of Alaska in the House.”
A special primary and special election will decide who completes the current term of the House.
A total of 51 candidates — including former Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin — filed by Friday’s deadline to run in a special election to complete Young’s unexpired term, which ends in January.
The special primary is set for June 11. The top four voters in the special primary will advance to a special election on Aug. 16, in which ranked-choice voting will be used. This is in line with a new electoral system approved by voters in 2020.
The state’s Division of Elections is targeting Sept. 2 to certify the special election.
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The August special election will coincide with the regular primary.
Regular primaries and general elections in November will determine who will represent Alaska in the United States House for a two-year term beginning in January.
Young was born June 9, 1933, in Meridian, California, and grew up on a family farm. He received a bachelor’s degree in education from Chico State College, now known as California State University, Chico, in 1958. He also served in the United States military, according to his official biography.
In Alaska, he settled in Fort Yukon, a small community accessible mostly by air at the confluence of the Yukon and Porcupine rivers in the state’s rugged and harsh interior. He held jobs in areas such as construction, trapping and commercial fishing. He was a tugboat and barge operator who delivered supplies to villages along the Yukon River, and he taught fifth grade at a Bureau of Indian Affairs school, according to his biography. With his wife Lu, he had two daughters, Joni and Dawn. Lu Young passed away in 2009.
He was elected mayor of Fort Yukon in 1964 and later served in the Alaska Legislative Assembly. In 1972, he was the Republican challenger to Democratic US Representative Nick Begich. Prior to the election, Begich’s plane disappeared on a flight from Anchorage to Juneau. The Alaskans still re-elected Begich.
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Begich was later pronounced dead, and Young in March 1973 won a close special election. He was the only member of the United States House from Alaska from that time until his death and was seeking re-election.
Young married Anne Garland Walton in 2015.