Will the Democratic primary winner just be fodder against Don Young?

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) — Are the two major candidates in the Democratic primary for Congress just more fodder for Don Young, America’s longest serving Congressman?

The Democratic primary contest pits Alyse Galvin, 53, a well-funded independent who has campaigned for state education funding, against Dimitri Shein, 37, a relative newcomer to politics. (His last name is pronounced “shane.”) Shein is a businessman who sells metal planters, many of them imported from a factory in China.

Two other candidates in the Aug. 21 primary are Christopher Cumings and Carol Hafner, a resident of New Jersey or South Dakota who acknowledges not living in Alaska.

The presidential race of 2016 may be history, but the “Bernie Factor” is showing up in Alaska. One of Shein’s major campaign themes is “Medicare for All,” an issue right out of the Bernie Sanders playbook. Shein’s campaign manager, Julie Olsen, has Sanders memorabilia in her office, and Sanders’ political organization, Our Revolution, has endorsed him.

“I have a good cross section of Bernie people and Hillary people, if you would call them that, because I am a Democrat,” Shein said. “But yet I’m running on a platform of single payer Medicare for All, so I hope to pull from both sections of Democratic Party.”

Galvin said she voted for Hillary Clinton, but added that her 2016 choice doesn’t mean she’s soft. She said she wished that Clinton had been tougher during the campaign and had some of the Sanders fire. She said she wrote some letters of advice to Clinton — she asked her to steer clear of Wall Street, for instance — but never got a reply.

“I followed them both, carefully, and our families were tracking both,” Galvin said. “I lean toward Hillary, and I also was empathetic to Bernie. I felt like she needed to get a little Bernie oomph in her, frankly. I think she would have had a much better chance of winning if she had.”

Galvin says she too would favor single payer healthcare, but thinks the Native healthcare system might be a better model than Medicare.

The candidates both say they’re focused on crime, opioid addiction and other issues, but also say their personal styles are important.

“I am someone who’s been on the streets for years, speaking up for the people, of the people, by the people,” Galvin said. “That’s my way.”

Shein, who was born in Vladivostok in the Russian Far East and saw the decline and then collapse of the Soviet Union, says that immigration to the United States is important. He opposes President Donald Trump’s policies on the southern border.

“We should not be separating mothers and children and putting them in cages,” Shein said. “That’s not what the first experience of a child should be in America.”

Even though she’s an independent, by choosing to run in the Democratic primary, Galvin risks getting knocked out of the race without ever facing Young. If voters reject her in the primary, she said, she won’t run a write-in campaign like Lisa Murkowski’s famous write-in against Republican Joe Miller and Democrat Scott McAdams in 2010 after Miller upended her in the primary.

And what about Young? He’s 85 now, but remains a formidable force. As the oldest person in Congress now, he has beaten everyone who has run against him since 1972, though two elections have been close — in 1990, when the Exxon Valdez was fresh on voters’ minds, he beat Valdez Mayor John Devens, a Democrat, and in 2008, when then-Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell came within 305 votes of beating him in the Republican primary.

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