‘You don’t want a young puppy’: Young shores up support with Alaska Federation of Natives

A man speaks at a podium
U.S. Rep. Don Young in Anchorage in 2020. (Jeff Chen/Alaska Public Media)

As the annual Alaska Federation of Natives convention got underway Monday, Alaska Congressman Don Young announced that Inupiaq business executive Tara Sweeney is one of his campaign co-chairs.

Sweeney, a former AFN co-chair, served as assistant secretary of Interior for Indian Affairs in the Trump administration and is a longtime executive at Arctic Slope Regional Corporation.

Young’s campaign made the announcement the same day he addressed the AFN convention.

“I am a person that you’ve always been able to ask me for help for something that you wish to get done,” he told the online convention. “And I’ll continue to do that. Because I listen to you and what you really want.”

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Young is 88 years old and has been in office nearly 49 years. He told the convention he knows that some people question his capabilities, but he said with longevity comes wisdom.

“You don’t want a young puppy on this job right now,” he said. “This is very, very important, the next two years. We have some big challenges before us nationally that can affect you tremendously. So I want to be here to serve you.”

Young also congratulated AFN on the 50th anniversary of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. He admitted he had his doubts that it would work but says Native people rose to meet the challenges.

Young now has two campaign co-chairs: Sweeney and state Sen. Josh Revak, R-Anchorage. The selection of two well-connected Republicans adds weight to the campaign and helps dispel persistent rumors that Young intends to retire before Election Day. 

Four candidates have filed with the Federal Elections Commission to challenge Young, including Nicholas Begich III, the grandson of the congressman who previously held the seat.

RELATED: A Republican Begich runs for Alaska’s US House seat, challenging Rep. Young

Liz Ruskin is the Washington, D.C., correspondent at Alaska Public Media. Reach her at lruskin@alaskapublic.org. Read more about Liz here.

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