Five months ago, Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) appeared before more than 50 seniors in a town north of Anchorage and dismissed the surging coronavirus pandemic as “the beer virus” that was built mostly on “hysteria” by the media.
A chastened Young taped a message soon after from Washington doing the almost unthinkable — apologizing, sort of — for a lawmaker whose gruff demeanor has fit nicely with the Last Frontier. “Weeks ago, I did not fully grasp the severity of this crisis,” he said, urging Alaskans to follow all federal guidelines to stop the novel coronavirus’s spread. “This pandemic is dangerous and is threatening, especially threatening, to our senior citizens, which I am one.”
Young, 87, isn’t just any senior citizen. First elected in 1973, he is the dean of the House, the longest-serving member of Congress. He’s been nearly untouchable ever since, outlasting an FBI probe, an ethics investigation and several anti-Republican waves, including his 2018 win by nearly seven percentage points over education activist Alyse Galvin.
But 2020 is different, and Galvin, running as an independent with the blessing of Democrats in Washington, is back for a rematch and is raising far more money than Alaska’s longest-serving politician.