The democratic challenger to Alaska’s longest-serving delegate to Washington D.C. will be in Kodiak for Crab Fest. Twenty-nine-year-old Forrest Dunbar is Representative Don Young’s main competitor this year, though perennial candidate Frank Vondezaar of Homer has also filed as a Democrat. Dunbar said his reason for seeking Alaska’s lone U.S. House seat is simple: he believes Congressman Young is no longer as influential as he once was.
“He’s been stripped of his ability to chair committees because of his corruption allegations, and he’s isolated within his own party and he’s incapable of working with this administration.”
Dunbar is a lifelong Alaskan, growing up in Eagle and Cordova, where he worked as a commercial fisherman. After high school, he was an intern for Alaska Senator Frank Murkowski and later a part time staff member for Guam Representative Madeliene Bordallo while attending American University in Washington D.C.
“I had the opportunity to grow up in rural Alaska, but I also had the chance to live and work in Washington D.C. and get experience there. And because of that, I follow D.C. and Congress pretty closely, and it’s just undeniable that Congress at present is dysfunctional and terrible. And our congressman, although I actually know him and met him and have no personal gripe against him, he is part of that problem. And I know our state can do better and have better representation and better representation – have more effective representation. And that’s why I decided to run. I don’t think Congressman Young has been effective for about the last eight years.”
He added that Young’s 40-plus-year election winning streak is probably because voters don’t think there was a viable alternative.
Dunbar earned a master’s degree in public policy from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and a law degree from Yale. He’s served in the Peace Corps, and was commissioned as a First Lieutenant in the Alaska Army National Guard just less a year ago, where he serves as a judge advocate. Unlike senate candidate Dan Sullivan, Dunbar feels it’s improper to try and capitalize on his military service for political gain.
“You have to keep politics and the military strictly separated. We don’t put any pictures of me in uniform up on our website. You know it’s something I’m very proud of, but it’s also something when my uniform is on, the campaign stops for me and hwen I’m campaigning, I try not mix it with my experience in the army.”
Sullivan, a Republican seeking the chance to run against incumbent Democrat Mark Begich, features his service in the Marines prominently in his advertising.
Dunbar says that everywhere he goes, one question he often hears is about his position on the proposed Pebble Mine in Bristol Bay.
“I grew up in a commercial fishing town. I was a commercial fisherman and had the chance to work on seiners for salmon. I also have a number of friends who work and live out in the Bristol Bay region. And I think where I come down it is, while I’m generally pro-mining and I think there are good mining projects that should go forward, I don’t believe Pebble is one of them. I just think it’s too much of a risk to put the world’s largest open pit mine over its most abundant salmon streams.”
Dunbar, who by the way is unrelated to the Kodiak Dunbars, will be in Kodiak Friday and Saturday for Crab Fest. A reception will be held at 6 p.m. Friday in the home of borough Assemblyman Dave Kaplan, and another will be at Kodiak Island Brewing Company Saturday at 4 p.m.