ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Independent Alyse Galvin says her 85-year-old, Republican opponent is no longer an effective advocate for the sole U.S. House district in Alaska.
Incumbent Don Young counters by touting his 45 years in the House — the longest current tenure among members — as a boon for Alaska. He calls Galvin inexperienced and claims she would side with the most liberal part of the Democratic party.
Those are some of the nicest things they have said about each other ahead of the election Tuesday that could impact whether the GOP keeps control of the House.
A win by Galvin, who has never held public office, would make her the first woman to be elected to the Alaska seat that Young has held for about three-fourths of the time Alaska has been a state.
Polling is traditionally unreliable in Alaska because of the large pockets of rural voters. But some surveys show Galvin closing the gap on Young in the spirited race in which Galvin has complained that Young shook her hand so hard, she screamed "that hurts!' and called it a "cheap bullying tactic."
Young said Galvin faked it.
"Well, of course it was staged," Young told The Associated Press. "She just made that up."
Last week, they didn't speak to each other at all before or after their fourth debate.
"I don't acknowledge her because very frankly, I don't believe she can do the job, and why should I acknowledge somebody who tried to stage something for publicity?" Young said.
Over the decades, Young has found himself in hot water for comments he's made, but none have sunk his political career. Earlier this year, he suggested in a speech in Juneau that European Jews wouldn't have been nearly exterminated by the Nazis in World War II if they had been armed.
Young once used a derogatory term for migrant workers on his father's farm in California then during the current campaign, he said it would be the "big, big enchilada" when a migrant caravan making its way through Mexico reaches the U.S.
Galvin said people are tired of such insensitive comments.
"Alaskans really want to get out of that business of name-calling," she said, asserting they want to focus living wages, affordable health care, growing small businesses, combatting rising crime and other issues
Galvin has spent years lobbying the Legislature for better funding for education. As a leader of a group that wants to identify women to run for office, she found that she might be one of the better candidates.
She has raised more money than Young — all from small donors. She has also taken money from unions but refused to accept contributions from corporate political action groups.
She seems to connect with audiences in small, town hall-style settings.
Vanessa Salinas is an independent who supports Galvin, even more so after hearing her speak at a town hall in Anchorage.
"I hope that we'll have more independents in Washington and in Juneau," Salinas said. "I think they bring a whole new spectrum to the political scene because they're not beholden to corporate money."
Tom Boutin, a retired certified forester in Juneau, supports Young and hopes he can remain in office for at least another 10 years.
"He's certainly at the top of his game, very lively and very thoughtful, very much engaged in Alaska and Alaska issues," said Boutin, who chalks up Young's questionable comments to generational differences and says he means no offense.
In the past, Young, a former school teacher from Fort Yukon, above the Arctic Circle, has had to do little campaigning and has rarely been in danger of being defeated.
He was elected in 1973 in a special election after his predecessor, U.S. Rep. Nick Begich, an Alaska Democrat, and then-House Speaker Hale Boggs, a Louisiana Democrat, were presumed killed in a plane crash.
"I love this state," Young said Monday before flying to the western Alaska hub community of Kotzebue, where he planned a community meeting and a radio interview.
"I'm going to do what I do," he said, reiterating that he'll work as long as he's physically able and people support him.
"I pride myself on my capabilities to do things and when someone's qualified who finally runs against me, I may reconsider it," he said. "But right now, though, I can do the job for the state of Alaska."