The long-awaited fisheries debate between Alaska’s candidates for U.S. Senate was expected to be a spirited one, but it was the state’s candidates for U.S. House that brought the most heat to the Kodiak stage Wednesday night. KMXT’s Brianna Gibbs has more.
In a fiery debate between Democratic Candidate Forrest Dunbar and long time Congressman Don Young, topics strayed from fisheries issues to accusations, belittling statements and off-hand remarks.
When answering questions from a media panel and audience members, both candidates focused on the issues and did not find much to disagree on. But it was the opportunity to ask questions of each other that raised the most eyebrows, specifically when Young admitted he had no serious questions for Dunbar.
“Over to you Congressman.”
“Oh I don’t really have any serious questions for Mr. Dunbar.”
Dunbar later took a jab at Young’s unpreparedness before asking a question of his own.
“Unlike Congressman Young I actually brought serious questions, because I think this is a serious debate.”
Young continued to offer little in the way of real questions for Dunbar when given additional chances by the debate’s moderator John Whiddon.
“Congressman your questions – you have no questions? Then I’ll give it over to Mr. Dunbar and we’ll have time to fill.”
Dunbar posed a question to Young regarding campaign financing, and the fact that he has received numerous high dollar contributions from Exxon Mobil over the years, even while the company was undergoing litigation from Alaska fishermen over the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill. Dunbar asked whether or not Young felt that was “dirty money” or if he ever considered giving it back. Young said no, and followed up by accusing Dunbar of “childish immaturity.”
“To insinuate somehow taking money from another industry is somewhat wrong – is naivity, is childish, it in fact shows immaturity.”
To which Dunbar replied:
“Immaturity was the things you said behind the curtain there Congressman Young, to me.”
Young’s apparent disrespect for Dunbar continued through the evening, including snide remarks about his candidacy.
“What committees would you want, if, God help us, you got elected.”
When asked about how he felt the debate went, Dunbar said it was uncomfortable at times and had a few more fireworks than he had hoped for.
“Well, you know, I was as surprised as anyone when he said he hadn’t prepared any questions. I mean we had had the debate format for weeks in advance and we put a lot of effort into preparing and writing up questions and we expected him to do the same. And it was, you know, pretty remarkable. And you could kind of hear a, kind of a gasp in the audience in the audience when he said it and it caught me off guard as well, I must admit.”
In terms of Young’s negative comments, Dunbar said he’s been standing up to bullies his whole life and he hopes he demonstrated that he won’t be pushed around. Still, Dunbar also admitted that it will be an uphill battle to beat Young in the November 4 election, but plans on charging forward in his campaign.
KMXT tried to contact Young for this story but he and his staff did not return a call by press time.
We have a link to the full audio from Wednesday’s debate on our home page, kmxt.org.