ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — U.S. Rep. Don Young has won a 21st term in Congress, which could allow him to become Alaska's longest-serving member of Congress, edging the late Ted Stevens.
Young on Tuesday handily defeated Democrat Sharon Cissna, who struggled to gain traction or campaign money in the race.
Young told reporters that Alaska probably "needs me now, more than ever," because President Obama won re-election and Democrats retained control of the Senate. He said the GOP-led House will have to act as a check-and-balance.
Young, a vocal supporter of Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, said Obama has to make the first step forward, to work toward progress.
"If he doesn't do that, then the House will have to be, very frankly, a check mate," he said.
Stevens was convicted in 2008 of seven felony counts of lying on Senate financial disclosure documents to hide hundreds of thousands of dollars in home renovations and gifts from wealthy friends. Eight days later, he lost re-election to the Senate seat he held for 40 years.
The judge in the case dismissed Stevens' conviction in April 2009 after the Justice Department admitted misconduct. Stevens died in a plane crash on Aug. 9, 2010.
Of the chance to become the longest serving Republican, Young said he appreciated that, but quickly added: "But unfortunately Ted could be serving longer than I if he hadn't been, frankly, prosecuted with a very bad case. It was awful."
Hermenegildo Mendoza of Anchorage considers himself as an independent voter. He went with President Barack Obama for another term. He also threw his support to Young.
Mendoza likes Young's long experience and his strong stance on decisions.
"I like him. I voted for him," he said. "He's a good guy."
Young, 79, is unapologetic about securing earmarks for project in Alaska. He cited as recent victories passage of a highway bill that he helped negotiate that included guaranteed funding for Alaska ferries and support for tribal transportation projects. Young said he also saved the Alaska Railroad by ensuring it retained most of its federal funding as part of that bill.
He credits his knowledge of how the system works for helping him to score projects in spite of a ban on earmarks. That ban, he said, is not good government, as he sees it as inhibiting his ability to help secure funding for infrastructure and other projects.
Young said Alaskans, ultimately, have the last word in whether he returns to Congress. Before voters even went to the polls, Young announced he would run again in 2014.
Cissna had difficulty in both raising money and getting her message out. Cissna didn't receive financial help from the national Democratic Party.
The breast cancer survivor made national headlines last year while serving in the state House when she refused a pat-down at a Seattle airport and had to use a variety of creative modes of transportation — rental car, ferry, small plane, cab — to return to Alaska.
Her act of defiance sparked an outpouring of support, and since then she said she's received more than 2,000 calls, emails and letters from people sharing their own experiences. That's a major reason she decided to run for U.S. House: she feels this is a constitutional issue, that there isn't enough oversight of the TSA, an agency she sees as running amok, and the place to push back — to try to get results — is at the congressional level.
She said she and Young share concerns about TSA but she doesn't believe Young has done enough to seek change.
Associated Press reporters Rachel D'Oro and Becky Bohrer contributed to this report.