Former telecommunications executive Sheldon Fisher, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was considered a promising challenger to incumbent Republican Congressman Don Young, who has served faithfully as Alaska's lone U.S. House member for 37 years. Not only was Fisher well-prepared financially, but was as clean as a hound's tooth. No skeletons in his closet. I previously discussed his candidacy on January 22nd, 2010 and on July 20th.
Meanwhile, Congressman Young had become the center of controversy over an earmark for Coconut Road in Florida which he supported. This led to a year-long Federal investigation which only recently was abandoned by the Department of Justice without action or explanation. In addition, Congressman Young had been removed as the ranking minority member of several House committees by the Republican leadership because he chose to defy a moratorium on earmarks proclaimed by House Republicans. The possibility of a changing of the guard never looked better.
Until August 24th, 2010. In Alaska's Republican primary, voters looked at Young's seniority and decided that his indiscretions could be forgiven. With 339 of 438 precincts counted as of this post, here are the numbers:
U.S. Representative (R)
-- Don Young (R) 58,031 votes, 70.02%
-- Sheldon Fisher (R) 19,869 votes, 23.97%
-- John R. Cox (R) 4,983 votes, 6.01%
I doubt that Fisher was completely surprised by the outcome. A Hellenthal poll conducted July 22-25 indicated at that time that Don Young had 61.8 percent, while Fisher had only 33.8 percent. A 28-point deficit would have been a lot to make up in just one month. And unlike Senate candidate Joe Miller, who may be on the verge of upsetting Lisa Murkowski, Fisher did not have a Sarah Palin endorsement or Tea Party Express help in his campaign to provide a tailwind, although he did land the endorsement of the Wasilla-based Conservative Patriots Group.
According to the Anchorage Daily News, exit polling indicated that many voters did not want to sacrifice Don Young's seniority. Most notably, many said they were not familiar with Sheldon Fisher despite the fact that Internet service is widely available. So the inability to seriously break into the public eye may have hampered Fisher's campaign from the very beginning. In addition, Fisher's campaign was drama-free, which means the media lacked an incentive to provide much coverage. Contrast that to Joe Miller's campaign, which was studded by drama. Further hindering the campaign was Don Young's reluctance to debate Sheldon Fisher; Fisher challenged him to a series of six debates. The challenge was rebuffed.
On his Facebook page, Fisher posted this gracious concession:
Thank you all for your incredible support! This campaign has been quite an experience - the part I most appreciated was engaging in dialogue Alaskans all across the state. Thank you again for your generous support. It is important that we restore Conservative control of the US House so I will stand behind Don Young; I ...encourage you to do so as well. Again, I cannot express enough thanks for your love and support!
But before I close out this post, I want to share one of the best political platforms I've ever seen. Sheldon Fisher crafted a 10-point "Contract With Alaska" designed to restore fiscal discipline to ensure future prosperity, and to promote real economic growth to provide for our families today:
* FIRST, require that Congress strictly live by the Constitution of the United States. Each bill shall provide the specific provision from the Constitution that gives Congress the authority to do what the bill does.
* SECOND, impose a cap on federal spending. The rate of federal spending shall not rise above the rate of income growth.
* THIRD, begin the Constitutional Amendment process to require a balanced budget with a two-thirds majority needed for any tax increase.
* FOURTH, require that Congress review every federal spending program ensuring the Constitutionality of the program and seeking to eliminate duplication, waste, and ineffectiveness in that program.
* FIFTH, require that Congress immediately pass real Earmark Reform. All earmarks must be vigorously vetted and approved. Lobbyists shall be banned from lobbying on behalf of any earmark request to prevent corruption and special interest control.
* SIXTH, Congress shall move immediately to defund and repeal Obamacare. Congress shall work to replace Obamacare with reforms that make healthcare more affordable by enabling innovations that come with a free market system.
* SEVENTH, Real Tax Reform shall be enacted, including all tax hikes that are set to begin in 2011. The tax code is much too complicated and the Fair Tax is the clearest solution offered.
* EIGHTH, free America from dependence on foreign oil by working diligently and form a delegation of like-minded legislators to push through responsible resource development in Alaska and other states. This is crucial in providing Alaska with real, long term jobs. Development of ANWR, NPR-A, and Arctic Drilling must be allowed to move forward.
* NINTH, Stop costly new federal regulations that would increase unemployment, raise consumer taxes, and weaken the nation’s global competitiveness with virtually no impact on global temperatures.
* TENTH, Reduce the burden of government regulations by simplifying the Code of Federal Regulations and requiring that the benefit of any regulations outweigh the associated costs.
While it would have been useful to also have an immigration plank, this is a prescription for smaller, more responsible, and less costly government.
It's too bad voters did not want to take this natural opportunity to replace a long-serving Congressman with a well-qualified replacement. Congressman Don Young has served Alaska well for 37 years, but there comes a time when one must pass the baton. Bishops and stake presidents are regularly rotated in and out to expand the complement of trained leadership and to ensure a regular inflow of new ideas; the same practice should be extended to politicians. Sheldon Fisher's efforts were worthwhile even if unsuccessful; who can predict if or when he might have to call upon that experience again in the future?