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10/30/14 - Don Young, Forrest Dunbar face off in race for U.S. Representative for Alaska

U.S. Representative Don Young, a Republican, is running for his 22nd term as Alaska's sole representative to the U.S. House, a seat he's held for 41 years. He faces Forrest Dunbar, a Democrat, in the general election on Tuesday.

Young has been in hot water recently. As the Alaska Dispatch News reported, Young last week told Wasilla high school students suicide signals a lack of support from friends and family. His remarks came just days after a student there had taken his own life. At last week's Alaska Federation of Natives convention, Young apologized, saying he has experienced the pain of losing a loved one to suicide.

"I am profoundly and genuinely sorry for the pain it may have caused people, genuinely sorry for the pain of the individual as I've experienced it," said Young. "And hopefully you won't have that. The support system. My record paints a very different picture if you'll check the record. I give suicide mental illness, mental illness - it is an illness - high priority."

Young said he's working on a broad approach to improve life in rural Alaska. He said, "Prevention means also following through what has occurred and will occur in our rural areas: alcohol, drugs, no support, no jobs, no self-determination, no  management of wildlife."

Young went on to say one of Alaska's biggest problems is due to what he calls "federal overreach." He told the AFN audience he's introducing a bill that would exempt land owned by Alaska Native for-profit corporations from federal jurisdiction.

"I am introducing a bill where any of the federal agencies' regulation laws do not apply to Native lands. That's what you have to have," said Young. "And I believe I've got a good chance of passing that. The President won't sign it."

Later in the Convention, candidate Forrest Dunbar described growing up in Cordova and the village of Eagle. His background includes stints as a commercial fisherman, firefighter, Peace Corps volunteer, and intern for then-U.S. Sen. Frank Murkowski, as well as service in the Alaska National Guard. Dunbar put a Harvard Master's degree in public policy and a Yale law degree to use working for the Anchorage branch of a national law firm that specializes in Native American law.

Dunbar says he will work to ensure rural Alaskans are not driven to urban areas out of a lack of other options.

"I love Anchorage and the Anchorage area. But people should move here on their own terms if they want to," said Dunbar. "They shouldn't be forced from rural areas by [the need for] health care, by the high cost of energy, because there's not enough fish to catch or caribou to eat. Our people, and particularly our Alaska Native people, should be able to live where they want to live, and how they've lived for thousands of years. I believe strongly in a subsistence preference."

Dunbar said he will carry on Young's work to give Alaska Natives a stronger say in wildlife management.

"My opponent has put forward a bill, a pilot project to allow the people of the Ahtna region to have a greater voice in  the management of their game," said Dunbar." It's a bill I strongly support and if I were elected, I would carry his bill forward. And if if got passed, I would put his name on it."

Dunbar also said he will support legislation to have Alaska Natives included in the Violence Against Women Act, which gives tribal courts greater authority to address offenses against tribal members.

Dunbar said that thanks to the support and encouragement of their elders, a younger generation of Alaska Natives is beginning to tackle some of the tough issues. He said he wants to work with them for a better Alaska.

Dunbar said Alaskans can not and will not live with some of the nation's highest rates of domestic violence, sexual assault, substance abuse, and suicide, or a world where  young people feel their voices are not heard. He said Alaskans can build a healthy society, and overcome divisions.

AFN delegates did not endorse a candidate in the race for U.S. Representative for Alaska.

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