Politics & Government

Alaska Rep. Young to face challenge from state Rep. Cissna

JUNEAU — Rep. Don Young picked up an opponent Wednesday when Rep. Sharon Cissna, a Democratic legislator from Anchorage, announced at a sparsely attended news conference that she was running for Congress.

Young, a Republican from Fort Yukon, has served 19 full terms as Alaska's sole Congressman and has steamrolled over most of his opponents over the years. Cissna said she wasn't volunteering to be this year's sacrificial lamb.

"I'm not running against anyone in the primary or in the general," Cissna said "I'm running for Alaska."

It seemed from her remarks, however, that she was running against the Transportation Security Administration, which attempted to give her a pat-down search last year at the Seattle airport when she was returning to Juneau. Cissna, a breast cancer survivor who has had a mastectomy, refused the search and ended up taking four days to get back to Juneau by way of ferry, rental car, small plane and taxi.

"I am running, not really because this is something I've ever dreamed of -- it's not something I ever dreamed of," she said. But another thing she never dreamed of, she said, was what happened in Seattle on Feb. 20, 2011, and which she has turned into a national campaign.

"I would have never expected that we would have a government program that touched children in highly inappropriate ways, touched elders with dementia and Alzheimer's in highly inappropriate ways," Cissna said. Changing the TSA needs to get done in Washington, D.C., she said.

"I'm in the race for a reason that is not of my choosing. I didn't choose what happened to me," she said.

At the news conference, Cissna, 70, introduced the person she hoped would replace her in the Legislature, Geran Tarr, 36.

Tarr is a community activist, former legislative aide and a masters degree student in public administration at the University of Alaska Anchorage. She said she would focus her campaign for District 17, which includes the U-Med District around UAA and Providence Medical Center, on jobs for Alaska.

In an email sent Wednesday afternoon, Young's spokesman, Luke Miller, said Young at 78 "believes he still has the fire to fight for Alaskans. He welcomes Representative Cissna to the race and is looking forward to the campaign season."

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