The dean of the House, GOP Rep. Don Young (AK-AL), passed away on Friday at age 88 during a flight from Los Angeles to Seattle en route back to Alaska, prompting a special election to fill his unexpired term. Eerily, Young came to Congress in a 1973 special election following the 1972 disappearance of a twin-engine plane carrying Democratic Rep. Nick Begich. And now, Begich's Republican grandson is a leading contender to replace Young.
Over 49 years, Young became known as a cantankerous folk hero to colleagues and voters alike, known for his advocacy for fisheries and securing federal dollars for Alaska projects. In November, he was one of just 13 House Republicans to vote for the bipartisan infrastructure package.
Young's abrasive style occasionally landed him in electoral danger. Over the course of five decades, he came within single digits of losing his seat eight different times, but always found a way to prevail. In 2008, Young beat then-Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell by just three-tenths of a percent in the GOP primary and Democrat Ethan Berkowitz by just five points
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