Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Alaska Congressman Don Young Blows Off Sean Parnell's Challenge During March 18th Lecture At The University of Alaska-Fairbanks (UAF)

During an appearance at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks (UAF) on Tuesday, March 18th, 2008, sponsored by Students Who Enjoy Economic Thinking and attended by approximately 100 students, Congressman Don Young, still the Congressman of all Alaskans (except for Ear and a few others), dismissed the idea that he would be facing a difficult primary election against Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell, who announced his surprise candidacy during the Alaska Republican State Convention on Friday March 14th. Full story reported in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.

I don’t consider it a real challenge right now,” Young said after a lecture delivered at UAF. Young further explained that Parnell made no hint of the announcement, which Parnell made just minutes beforehand as they ate breakfast at the same table during the convention. He called the move “cheap.”

The congressman also spent much of his 90-minute visit discussing fossil fuels and environmental issues. He expressed concern that if fuel costs continue to rise, people will be forced to move from the outlying villages into Fairbanks and Anchorage, where opportunities for training and housing may prove difficult to find. He even wondered if people would be able to afford the cost of heating during the winter in Fairbanks.

He called for more exploration of oil resources in Alaska, particularly in the Chukchi Sea and in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, as well as in the Lower 48. “There is no shortage of fossil fuels in the U.S.,” Young said. “That is total hogwash. There is a shortage of will to develop them.”

Young said he is not opposed to some alternative energies such as nuclear power and solar or wind energy on smaller scales, but he questioned why Alaska doesn’t tap into the Permanent Fund to finance the alternatives. “We have that $40 billion in a coffee can,” he said. “It does us no good there.”

On the topic of the Alaska Gasline Inducement Act, Young was doubtful that the state could force oil companies to build such a pipeline, especially if the corporations started a court battle over ownership of North Slope natural gas. “Don’t get caught up in the idea that AGIA is the only brothel in town,” he said. “They’re not going to build a rental unit without renters.”

The 18-term congressman said he will make his usual trips around the state in the months before August’s primary, but doesn’t plan any additional campaigning.

Analysis: Congressman Don Young apparently does NOT get it. The correlation of forces against him is much different and much LESS FAVORABLE now than in any previous election cycle. Once again, here are the recent poll numbers which show a clear-cut deteriorating trend, according to pollster Hays Research of Anchorage:

April 5th, 2007: 51% Positive, 38% Negative.
June 15th, 2007: 38% Positive, 41% Negative.
September 17th, 2007: 33% Positive, 46% Negative.
November 12th, 2007: 34% Positive, 48% Negative.
March 12th, 2008: 40% Positive, 55% Negative (neutral category eliminated in this poll).

And this trend was further reinforced by an "unscientific" KTUU Channel 2 poll taken on March 14th, which showed that Ethan Berkowitz and Sean Parnell garnering the bulk of the support, with a mere 10% for Don Young.

And yet Congressman Young's response is to denigrate and demean his Republican opponent, Sean Parnell. This merely compounds the negative sentiment already triggered by Young's failure to further explain the $850,000+ legal war chest assembled, his promotion of the Coconut Road earmark, and his insulting remarks to the media and to some constituents.

According to a post on the Human Events blog, the differences between Sean Parnell and Don Young are more about image than issues. It portends a battle between the old guard and the new guard in the Alaska Republican Party. And those who should be unifying the party, namely Don Young and also Governor Sarah Palin, are dividing the party because of personal vindictiveness. Yes, Lady Sarah has also poured some of her own gasoline on the fire, when she orchestrated an unsuccessful palace coup against Alaska Republican boss Randy Ruedrich during the convention.

Don Young has serious competition which can defeat him. He must repair his damaged relationship with Alaskans by acknowledging that he has been abusive at times, pledge to show equal respect for all Alaskans regardless of political labels, and address the specific issues raised by both Sean Parnell and Ethan Berkowitz. Young has time to turn this around.

But this time, the burden of proof is no longer on Don Young's challengers, but has shifted to Don Young himself. He must acknowledge and address this reality if he wants to win.

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