***UPDATE*** As we predicted, Steve Lindbeck has now officially announced his candidacy.
The Midnight Sun has learned that one potential challenger to Congressman Don Young has begun hiring campaign staff and an official announcement of his candidacy is imminent.
Retired longtime Alaska newsman and former CEO and General Manager for Alaska Public Media Steve Lindbeck confirmed to us several weeks ago that he was considering such a run and had got as far as discussing the move with Democratic Party officials in Washington, D.C. Several sources say Lindbeck has finalized his decision and plans to formally announce his campaign as soon as tomorrow.
The same sources also indicate Lindbeck has started hiring staff and building his campaign infrastructure. One Lindbeck staffer appears to be Nathaniel Markowitz, who would only confirm to us that he was not serving as campaign manager or press contact for the campaign. He instead referred us to the campaign’s press contact email for further information. But According to Markowitz’ facebook page he has signed on for the campaign through November 15th.
According to Markowitz’ LinkedIn profile he most recently worked at the D.C. based firm Erickson and Company as a fundraising associate. His profile also shows work for several pro-Israel groups such as J Street and the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, but there is no mention of any work in or connected to Alaska.
Given Mr. Markowitz’ background, he will almost certainly be serving as the primary fundraising staffer on the campaign.
In addition to the hiring of Markowitz, the campaign appears to have brought on board Evan Brown, who answered an email sent to campaign’s press account and indicated the campaign would have no comment until a formal announcement is made.
Several weeks ago when we asked Lindbeck if he would run as a Democrat, Republican, or something else he said “temperamentally, [I’ve] always been a Democrat” and that he would “most likely run as a Democrat.”
Why come out of retirement to run against an established incumbent? “It’s time for some new blood.” Lindbeck said “Things are changing in Alaska and we need to look forward to the next ten years, instead of back to the last forty.” That’s Clearly a reference to Alaska’s Current Congressman Don Young, who has served in that position for 43 years.
What are Lindbeck’s chances?
Tracking polling published by Alaska Survey Research shows Young steadily losing popularity the past few years.
Those numbers should indicate Young is vulnerable, but he has a long history of winning close, hard fought campaigns including 2008 when he beat then Lt. Governor Sean Parnell by 304 votes and then went on to beat now Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz by just over 5%. Young was considered the underdog in both of those races, even by many inside the Alaska Republican Party.
In more recent memory Young’s Democrat challengers haven’t gotten within 10 percentage points of him. He dispatched youthful upstart Forrest Dunbar by a margin of 10% in 2014, former state house Rep. Sharon Cissna by 38% in 2012, and former state house Rep. Harry Crawford by 35% in 2010.
Of those challengers, the one who came closest to beating Young, Forrest Dunbar, says Linbeck can do even better “I think he’ll be better than I was in a lot of ways” Dunbar said in an interview Tuesday night “He starts off with a lot better name recognition and has already seen a lot of the state with his public radio work. Don is hard to beat, but I think Steve will have the best chance of anybody in a long time.”
***Check back Thursday morning for an updated version of this story with brand new polling data on how Alaskans view Young.***
Don Young’s Response
Congressman Don Young’s campaign responded to news Lindbeck would be running with the following comment:
“Congressman Young looks forward to running a spirited and energetic campaign. At this time, he remains focused on his official duties as Congressman for All Alaska and best representing the people he was elected to serve. Congressman Young has always welcomed all candidates to the congressional race and will focus on receiving the Republican nomination this August.
“Having received the most votes among statewide elected officials in 2014, Congressman Young’s victory showed that Alaskans of all ages stand behind his years of effective representation and service to the state and its residents.
“Congressman Young continues to be one of the most effective members of Congress, holding an important Chairmanship on the Indian, Insular and Alaska Natives Affairs Subcommittee and having passed more bills into law that any other member of the House – two factors that contributed to him being named among the top 10 most effective lawmakers in the U.S. Congress.”