The 117th Congress is very old on average. That academic tidbit becomes a stark reality when retirements are announced, but more so when there is a death.
Rep. Don Young (R-AK) passed away Friday at the age of 88, Breitbart reported. Young had the distinction of serving the longest of any lawmakers in the current Congress.
“It’s with heavy hearts and deep sadness that we announce Congressman Don Young (R-AK), the Dean of the House and revered champion for Alaska, passed away today while traveling home to Alaska to be with the state and people that he loved,” his office said in a statement. “His beloved wife Anne was by his side,” it said.
“A fierce defender in Congress since 1973, nearly everything that has advanced for Alaska is a result of Don Young’s tenacious work,” the statement continued. “From the Trans-Alaska pipeline, to the Ketchikan Shipyard, to the Magnuson Stevens Act, which transformed the American fishing industry, to the numerous land exchanges he fought for, Don Young’s legacy cannot be overstated.”
The statement noted that those who know him “will miss him dearly. His family, his staff, and his many friends ask Alaskans for their prayers during this difficult time.” Young was looking forward to a Republican takeover in the 2022 midterms where he felt the party could get things done.
“That was his goal, and he felt he could best help the state in the position he’s held all these years,” his chief of staff, Jack Ferguson, said, “He was vibrant, he had a lot of energy, he’s very clear of mind, spoke clearly about what he wanted to accomplish, set goals that he wanted to make happen, and was happy to be running,” Ferguson remembered.
Young was elected as Alaska’s only representative in a special election on March 6, 1973. Now Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R-AK) will have to hold a special election to replace Young within three months of his death, as per the law.
The advancing age of Congress is a problem that the government will have to reckon with. In the meantime, the nation will mourn the loss of another faithful public servant.