In Alaska, a 1st-time House candidate takes on the nation's most entrenched incumbent

Lisa Belkin — October 20th, 2018

It is a familiar story in this midterm election year — a woman who has never run for anything before attends the Women’s March and decides to declare herself a candidate.

This particular version comes with a few twists: The seat Alyse Galvin is running for is Alaska’s congressperson-at-large, and her opponent is the most entrenched incumbent in the country – the longest continuously serving member of Congress in history. Galvin, 52, was 8 years old when Congressman Don Young, 85, won the seat in a special election in 1973. He has beaten 46 other opponents since then.

And she just might win.

If she does, it would be a dramatic upset, replacing a man whose seniority brings enormous clout in Congress with a woman who, until a year ago, had never thought of running for office.

Born and raised in Alaska, Galvin ran a daycare center and a book bindery, managed a hotel in  Anchorage and raised four children. In 2014 she joined a small group working to resist school budget cuts, which turned into Great Alaska Schools, with a membership of thousands of parents, and which Galvin chaired for the past five years.

After Donald Trump took office in 2017, her organizing went national. She joined the Women’s March on Washington and placed “All are welcome” signs around Anchorage to protest the new administration’s immigration plan. As part of her education advocacy, she mounted a letter-writing campaign urging Alaskan Sen. Lisa Murkowski to vote against the confirmation of Betsy DeVos as secretary of education. (Murkowski did vote no, but DeVos was confirmed.)

She also joined a group called Alaska Women Ascend, which recruits and trains women to run for office, thinking she would help others with their campaigns. But at a session describing “what it takes to make a strong candidate,” she said in a phone interview with Yahoo News, “I realized I fit this just right. I am who they are talking about.”

Galvin declared her candidacy in January and within four days had raised $70,000, all in small donations because she will not take money from corporate political action committees. She frequently points out that half of Young’s donations come from PACs. A lifelong independent in a state where 15 percent of voters are Democrats and 56 percent are undeclared, she petitioned the Democratic party for permission to run on its ballot, and after defeating two other Democrats in a primary this summer, she is both the Democratic and independent nominee.

She began well behind — in the size of her war chest, in her name recognition, and in the polls. But the most recent Federal Election Commission filings show she has outraised Young for the fourth quarter in a row — bringing in $1.18 million to Young’s $1.02 million,  and coming up to Election Day, she is nearly tied for cash on hand. Polls, which had shown her as far as 12 points behind at the start of the race, are narrowing too. Earlier this week, a poll from Public Policy Polling showed Young leading by just three points, 46 to 43 percent, and one from Alaska Survey Research put the candidates four points apart.

As she travels the state in her RV, talking regularly about health care for all and campaign finance reform, she says she is not worried that Young still has far greater name recognition, because, she argues, the downside for him is that voters are tired of the man whose name has been on billboards and ballots for nearly 50 years.

“Nothing meaningful will really change until we change who is in power,” she says.

Read More: Yahoo News

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