Alaska’s Congressman Don Young stopped in Wednesday on a campaign trip. During a presentation to the Chamber of Commerce, he revisited some of his favorite issues: Federal regulations; resource management; and the need to return to an economy based on production.
The state’s only representative in the U.S. House also touched on the presidential race, and his own bid for re-election.
Rep. Don Young is skipping this year’s Republican National Convention, but his absence isn’t a political statement. He just doesn’t go to conventions anymore.
“Really, they’re just a big party,” he said. “And I don’t have the desire to party that hard anymore.”
As is typical for the congressman, Young kept his opening remarks to the Chamber of Commerce short. He said the biggest challenge for Congress is increasing regulations established by regulatory agencies rather than lawmakers.
“I introduced a bill four years ago in Congress that said any regulations from 1991 until now are null and void unless ratified by Congress, and I got laughed at, by the way, at the Chamber in Anchorage,” he said. “And I said, the only way you can stop them is to say they are not valid laws because they have not been vetted by the people. Being vetted by the people is by the Congress of the United States.”
Young soon opened the floor for questions, and one audience member asked about the possibility of the president establishing a new wildlife refuge in Alaska. Young said President Obama could do that, but a new president could overturn such a declaration.
That led Young to talk about the presidential election, and why he will support Donald Trump, the Republican nominee, even though Trump wasn’t Young’s first, or second, choice.
“He’s better than Hillary (Clinton). It’s that simple. John Kasich was my candidate. Jeb Bush was until he just petered out, because I knew his father and his brothers. There’s a lot more talented people,” he said. “I say this respectfully: Donald Trump has hit a chord, but he’s not and has not been a conservative. He’s very much a liberal, and that bothers me.”
Young said he felt a little better after the selection of Indiana Governor Mike Pence as Trump’s running mate. And, Young said, as long as Republicans hold a majority in the House and Senate, it doesn’t really matter who the president is, because Congress can keep that person in check.
Despite that, Young said he still doesn’t want presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton winning the White House. He compared her to former President Richard Nixon, who resigned in 1974 following the Watergate scandal.
“Richard Nixon and what he was charged with. Anyone know what he was charged with? Nothing, other than the fact that he had some tapes,” he said. “Now we have a person running for the president that has lied to the Congress, lied to the Justice Department, admits in fact that she had these emails that were unclassified and said, ‘I didn’t know they were classified.’ Think 44 years ago. She’d be in jail and be hung. She’s a dishonest person. If you want a dishonest person, vote for her.”
Regarding his own campaign, Young said he’s running on his record, built over his 44 years in the House.
“I want you to understand I’m still fired up about this job. I like what I do. I believe I’m good for the state. I know I’m good for the state,” he said. “And if I was to lose I’d be hurt for about 35 minutes. I’d be mad. Then I’m going out to buy an airplane, if she’ll let me.”
Young was referring to his wife, Anne, who was in the audience.
Young also joked that his main rival, Democrat Steve Lindbeck, is too old for the job.
“I say that with a sort of halfway jest,” he said. “He’s 63 and I’m 83. When he gets to be my age, he’ll be dead.”
In response to another question, Young said the United States needs to be more active in the Arctic as the ice retreats and new resources open up. But, he said, other politicians from the Lower 48 don’t understand the potential of that region.
He also talked about some legislation he has worked on to transfer about 2 million acres of the Tongass National Forest to the State of Alaska.
“That bill is going to be moving. (But) this president will never sign it…” he said. “We figure with 2 million acres for the communities, you’ll be able to pick, yes, timber. For a viable timber harvest, and you’ll have a land base and (be able to) manage the areas of these communities, so you don’t, you know, frankly starve to death.”
In a short interview following his Chamber talk, Young also touched on the planned transition on the Tongass from old-growth timber harvest to young-growth. He said harvesting young trees doesn’t make sense.
“There’s no market for the trees they’re saying they want to cut. And it’s a terrible waste because in 50 years, they’d be viable saw timber… There’s no market for them,” he said. “What they’ll do is, they’ll put it up for sale, and this is a Forest Service ploy, they’ll put it up for sale and no one will bid on it because there’s no way they can make money out of it. They’ll say after there’s no bids that nobody’s interested and they’ll shut it down. They don’t want us to cut any trees here.”
Young is pushing legislation to delay that transition to young-growth timber. Similar measures have been introduced in the U.S. Senate.