Steve Lindbeck respects Don Young's service but says, "We can't expect Congress to change if we send the same people time and time again."

Steve Lindbeck respects Don Young’s service but says, “We can’t expect Congress to change if we send the same people time and time again.”

A well-known figure in Anchorage is working to convince voters around the state that he’s the person who should send Alaska Representative Don Young into an early retirement.

Democrat Steve Lindbeck made a whistle stop in Sitka on a recent tour through Southeast.

Downloadable audio.

In addition to major party candidates Steve Lindbeck and Don Young, voters will have a third choice for Congress: Libertarian Jim McDermott. 

Steve Lindbeck is probably the most well-known candidate for Congress you’ve never heard of. He’s been living in Alaska since childhood in the 1960s when his dad, a member of the Navy and a survivor of the attack on Pearl Harbor, was assigned duty in remote Alaska.

“To get to Adak in those days you had to stop in Kodiak on the way from Seattle. And it was a sunny day, which hardly ever happens in Kodiak — but it was sunny and beautiful and he requested Kodiak duty every year after that. And finally in 1964 they sent him to Kodiak, and my family went there when it was still a Navy base. It was about 6 months after the earthquake, at that point.”

Four years later, the family moved to Anchorage, where Lindbeck graduated from West High School, and became the first member of his family to go to college. Now he’s running as a Democrat to unseat Don Young — a Republican, and Alaska’s lone member of of the House of Representatives — who’s been at the job 43 years.

Lindbeck says that if he gets to Congress next January, he’ll work with people willing to put service ahead of political party.

“Congress is really broken — we all know that. It’s hyper-partisan, it’s deadlocked, and people are more concerned about their own political future than about meeting the needs of the country or their communities. We know that Congress isn’t working the way we learned about it in Civics class. So there’s a lot to do to put that straight. Again, a lot will depend on the people we elect. I don’t think you can expect it to change if you keep sending the same people there time after time.”

If Lindbeck sounds like he’s editorializing, he probably is. He was the editorial page editor of the Anchorage Daily News for 10 years, and worked in the same role at the Anchorage Times. He spent 10 years as the executive director of the Alaska Humanities Forum, and most recently, he served eight years as the CEO of Alaska Public Media, which operates the public radio and television stations in Anchorage, as well as the Alaska Public Radio Network.

His background in journalism is good preparation for an interview. He unfolds a large sheet of paper organized with his talking points. In Southeast, the largest federal issue is the transition to young-growth management on the Tongass National Forest.

“We first of all need to make sure we protect the fisheries of Southeast Alaska. We need to make sure we protect subsistence uses in the Tongass. But beyond that, I’m pretty sure we can find a way to keep one mill open going forward in the Tongass. It’s the biggest national forest. It’s growing like crazy every year. There ought to be enough timber to harvest to keep one mill going.”

Nationally, continued US involvement in the Middle East remains a concern. Lindbeck wants to approach the Syrian Civil War very carefully.

“Well the United States needs to have a leadership role. I don’t think we’re going to put troops on the ground in the Syrian War, at least based on what we know today. But we have a very important role in the region and we need to work with our partners to do whatever we can to stabilize that situation. It’s a danger: There’s a power vacuum that a lot of bad actors could fill. And at the same time it’s a human tragedy, a refugee tragedy — it’s overwhelming in the Mid-East, and in Europe where people are going. There are thousands of people crossing the Mediterranean and dying in the process. It’s a huge set of issues that we’re just going to have to have an active role in managing, in trying to contain the situation, improve the security, and find solutions to a really tense struggle over there.”

Lindbeck’s opponent has been elected to Congress 21 times. Don Young is 83 years old, and currently the third most senior member of the House. Lindbeck respects Young’s service, but thinks his longevity in office hasn’t brought him status or power, and isn’t serving the interests of the state.

“There comes a time for a change. We need to look ahead. What worked for the last 30 or 40 years is not going to work for the next period. We need to move forward. We need to make sure that we have a representative that will put Alaska first. We’ve made an issue in this campaign of some of his campaign contributions, and putting his contributors ahead of Alaska’s needs and interests. And that’s one of the reasons so many people believe Congress is kind of become a place of legalized bribery. It’s legal, but it’s not right. And so, I’ve really been stressing this: We really need to make sure Alaska’s needs come first.”

During his visit to Sitka, Lindbeck met with the Sitka Tribe of Alaska, local Democrats, and the Daily Sitka Sentinel. Later in the day, he traveled to Petersburg, Wrangell, and then made a final stop in Juneau.