Sunday, July 29, 2007

Alaska Democratic Party Chairman Jake Metcalfe Announces Intent To Run Against Incumbent Republican Congressman Don Young

Special Note: Some minor but pertinent additional updates posted on July 30th, 2007 in green. Major update May 7th, 2008: Metcalfe withdraws from race; see updated post HERE.

On July 29th, 2007, KTUU Channel 2 Anchorage reported that Alaska Democratic Party Chairman Jake Metcalfe has declared his intent to run against incumbent Republican Don Young, who has been Alaska's sole member of the U.S. House since 1973. He declared his intent late Saturday night (July 28th) before boarding a flight to Washington D.C. Metcalfe (pictured at left) becomes the second Democrat to declare a candidacy against Young; Diane Benson, a Greenie-turned-Democrat, who ran against Young in 2006 and garnered 40% of the vote, only 17 percentage points behind Young despite being vastly outspent, was the first to announce her candidacy.

On July 30th, the Anchorage Daily News published its own story on Metcalfe's entry into the race. ADN reporter Kyle Hopkins has also started a discussion on his ADN-sponsored Alaska Politics blog.

Based on his recent emphasis, rhetoric, and criticism of Republicans in general and Don Young in particular, Metcalfe is expected to focus on Young's mounting legal troubles, including a federal investigation into Young's ties with VECO Corp., the oilfield services company at the center of a public corruption probe in Alaska which triggered the indictment of three former Alaska state lawmakers. Metcalfe doesn't intend to observe the presumption of innocence in Young's case.

"If it were just one incident, I think I could agree to that, but there are multiple incidences of him being involved in unethical or possibly criminal behavior, and he is under criminal investigation. So, it is not just one thing, it's a lot of things, and it has become an embarrassment to Alaska," Metcalfe said. Metcalfe recently unveiled a website, http://www.dropdon.com/, which highlights Young's alleged ties to numerous questionable figures such as Jack Abramoff. Click HERE to review a host of news articles regarding the recent political interplay between Jake Metcalfe and Don Young.

Special Note: The dropdon.com website is NOT Jake Metcalfe's official campaign website. He has launched a brand new campaign website:

http://www.jake2008.com/

Here are his four top priorities, published on his new site:

1). Stop the partisan bickering and move the country forward;
2). Respect and protect our Constitution and right to privacy;
3). Make sure Alaskans have good high paying jobs and keep our economy strong;
4). Get the federal deficit under control because it is jeopardizing the financial security of this nation.

No word yet on whether Metcalfe will continue as the state's party chairman while simultaneously running for office. Metcalfe acceded to the state party chairmanship during his final school board term and was criticized for "wearing two political hats".

Former House Minority Leader Ethan Berkowitz, who has hinted at also running for Young's seat in 2008, reacted phlegmatically to the news. While Berkowitz considers himself and Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich to be the two strongest candidates that Alaska Democrats could put forth, he stresses that a change is necessary. Begich himself is out of town and unavailable for comment at this moment. Begich is open to the prospect of running for higher office, but appears more interested in challenging Ted Stevens for his Senate seat.

But Metcalfe himself is no political rookie. He acquired a solid working knowledge of Alaska criminal law during his years as a prosecutor in Bethel. After moving to Anchorage, he was elected to serve two three-year terms on the Anchorage School Board. Although Metcalfe chose to stand down in April 2007, his influence helped Chris Tuck win the seat over reformer Ryan Sharratt. Metcalfe is also a lawyer who has worked extensively for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), one of Alaska's more controversial unions. His tenure as a school board member was adversely pockmarked only by occasional public feuding with former school board member Teresa Obermeyer at school board meetings. The political relationship between the two deteriorated to the point to where Obermeyer filed a complaint against Metcalfe to the Alaska Bar Association in 2003, which was quickly rejected.

Young's campaign manager, Steve Dougherty, said they won't be commenting until Metcalfe is officially a candidate. Metcalfe will file a formal letter of intent on July 30th in Washington D.C.

Diane Benson does not appear to be surprised by this development. "Being an unexpected newcomer, I stirred it up and revealed that Don was vulnerable. Now that it's been made clear -- and I think Don has a done a lot of that to himself of late -- that more and more candidates are going to appear from every direction. On the other hand, I'm the one who's been out there", Benson told KTUU.

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