"Don’t ever touch me. The last guy who touched me ended up on the ground dead."

So what happened before the debate?

Dunbar, reached Friday and pressed about the encounter, said the two were walking near each other backstage when Young said angrily, “You’re not from Cordova any more than I’m from Fort Yukon. I had you looked into.”

Dunbar, raised in that Southcentral Alaska town after his family moved there from Eagle in the Interior when he was a child, said he tried politely responding to Young. Young grew up in California and moved to Alaska as a young man, not long after serving in the U.S. Army in the mid-1950s.

Dunbar said he was puzzled and in a friendly gesture touched Young on his arm lightly and asked: “What are you talking about?” Then:

“He freaked out,” said Dunbar. “There is no other way to describe it.

“He kind of snarled at me and said, ‘Don’t you ever touch me. Don’t ever touch me. The last guy who touched me ended up on the ground dead,’” said Dunbar.