Correction: The initial version of this story incorrectly stated Alyse Galvin’s age when Don Young was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. She was eight years old, not 18.
When Don Young was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1973, Alyse Galvin was 8 years old.
Forty-five years later, the 53-year-old Galvin is attempting to unseat the longest actively serving member of the House.
It’s not an easy task: Since winning that first election, Young has defeated 46 other opponents, often by wide margins. Thus far, Galvin has held her own against the experienced Young.
According to Federal Elections Commission reports, Galvin has more campaign cash on hand. Through Aug. 1, Galvin has raised $601,000 for her campaign and spent about $349,000. During the same period, Young has raised $801,000 and spent about $636,000.
In a Sept. 17 debate hosted by the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce, Young appeared to be caught off guard by Galvin at one point and echoed President Donald Trump by referring to Galvin as a “nasty woman.” Galvin promptly shared a video of the exchange in fundraising emails.
Polling released thus far gives Young the edge in the head-to-head matchup on Nov. 6, but Galvin would earn the victory if she convinces enough voters in the remaining month and a half before Election Day.
Before heading to the Anchorage debate, Galvin made a campaign stop in the capital city and spoke about campaign issues with Empire editor Emily Russo Miller.
“I’m running because I want to make sure that we have a place where my children and your children can be living in a sustainable state where they feel that they can find a place to their way to a good job,” Galvin said, adding that preserving Alaska’s “fresh water and fish and air and incredible trails” is also important.
Links to the capital city
A mother of four, Galvin holds a degree from the University of California San Diego. She is married to Pat Galvin, who was revenue commissioner under Gov. Sarah Palin and now works as an oil executive. Before becoming commissioner, Galvin worked for the state in other roles and brought his family to Juneau. For two years, Alyse Galvin and her four children lived in the capital city and formed ties they still have.
Galvin is the godmother of Callie Conerton and has been a regular presence in the Capitol, lobbying for increased education funding. In a 2007 letter published in the Empire, she shared a complaint common to the capital city when she objected to the high price of Alaska Airlines fares and hoped for competition at Juneau International Airport.
Not long after she left Juneau, Galvin helped found Great Alaska Schools, a nonpartisan statewide group that advocates for more education funding. For the past five years, she has led the group.
In 2014, she was a member of new Gov. Bill Walker’s transition team for education. After the 2016 election of President Donald Trump, she was among a group of people who went around Anchorage, posting signs declaring “All are welcome here,” in explicit rejection of the president’s immigration policy. Versions also have popped up across Juneau.
Last year, in addition to pushing the Legislature to increase schools funding, she organized rallies against the U.S. Senate confirmation of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education, contributing to U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s vote against the confirmation. (It was approved with a tiebreaking vote by Vice President Mike Pence.)
Galvin announced her campaign in January and defeated a series of challengers (most notably Democrat Dimitri Shein) in the August primary for the Democratic nomination. Despite that win, she will be listed on the ballot as an “undeclared” independent, having taken advantage of an Alaska Supreme Court ruling allowing parties to give their nomination to independent candidates.
Education a top priority
Education remains Galvin’s top priority, and while talking to the Empire, she said she believes Alaska has the potential for high-technology industries, given an educated population and economic success. She supports construction of the trans-Alaska natural gas pipeline, calling natural gas “a good, important, clean bridge fuel that we’re going to need.”
Asked about gun violence and gun safety issues, Galvin said she believes “there’s some common-sense measures like growing background checks” and focusing on keeping firearms away from the mentally ill.
She pointed out that the majority of Alaska’s firearms deaths are due to suicide, rather than crime, which indicates that should be an area of attention.
“We are dying up here by gun, by firearms. And when we peel apart what the problem is up here, it’s mental health,” she said.
While her husband is an oil executive, Galvin said there is no doubt that climate change is real and must be addressed.
“The water’s warmer. We know the water has more acid in it. We know that fish are not as healthy or plentiful. We know that we have entire villages dropping into the water. So climate change is real there’s no question about it,” she said.
She said she would like to see more research efforts devoted to the Arctic, something that would in turn boost Alaska’s ability to host high-technology industries.
Galvin said she worries that some of President Trump’s policies, particularly his strategies on foreign trade, are harming Alaskans and Alaska industry.
“The executive orders around tariffs are greatly affecting Alaskans,” she said.
She is also alarmed by his attitudes toward immigrants.
“He’s called them animals. I’m very worried for that sort of behavior. That’s disrespectful and harmful,” she said.
“I think that we need to have a comprehensive immigration plan that keeps Americans safe,” she said, but Trump’s wall isn’t the answer.
“We need to figure out a way to live side by side, and I think there’s a way to get to a full plan where we all feel safe on both sides of the border and respected.”
Galvin is bullish on the idea that the United States needs to improve its electronic defenses.
“We need to make sure that we are fired up and ready to have our best defense around our cybersecurity issues,” she said. “That’s going to take dollars, and we need to put it where it’s at.”
Health care and local issues
With regard to health care, Galvin said she believes the federal government should be much more aggressive in negotiating with pharmaceutical companies that provide medication to Americans.
“With regard to pharmaceuticals, I have no idea why our current delegation has not stood up to pharmaceutical (companies),” Galvin said. “We have been buying power when it comes to Medicare dollars spent in Medicaid.”
Galvin isn’t opposed to a single-payer health care system, but her bottom line is “every single Alaskan … and American getting a comprehensive health care plan. I’m open to whatever way it is that gets us there.”
Turning to local issues, Galvin said she needs to research the Juneau Access Project more to understand whether she supports a Juneau road or not. Even without that research, she said she supports the Alaska Marine Highway System and wants to see reliable ferry service across the region.
When it comes to Tongass issues, she said she isn’t opposed to an Alaska-specific Roadless Rule, but “it’s really important that we strike a balance between conservation of old-growth areas and allowing the timber industry to economically harvest large areas previously disturbed.”
Alaska’s general election is Nov. 6.
• Contact reporter James Brooks at firstname.lastname@example.org or 523-2258.