May 24, 2012 | Vol. 42, No. 21

State Rep. Cissna seeks Young's seat

State Rep. Sharon Cissna, D-Anchorage, came through town on a recent campaign swing. Cissna is challenging longtime incumbent U.S. Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, the state’s lone congressman.

State Rep. Sharon Cissna

Cissna, 70, is a mental health counselor and a self-employed writer and illustrator. She has served seven terms in the state house and heads up the Legislative Health Caucus, a group of legislators who address health issues.

She’s also a cancer survivor who gained renown in February 2011 when she denied an airport security body search. Inspectors wearing gloves asked to feel beneath her underwear where she’d had a mastectomy.

“It was, for me, molestation. I didn’t want to go through it and I don’t want other people to go through it,” she said. “I had a more invasive experience with the (Transportation Security Administration) than I had with my doctors. That’s extraordinarily harmful for people.”

Changing TSA procedures is one of her goals. “I’m going to fight for a silent problem. Don Young agrees with me but he doesn’t do anything about it. I’m running because I want to get a job done.”

Security procedures are expensive and poorly thought-out, she said.

She is also concerned about the state’s low rates of graduation from high schools and universities. “Our kids are not learning the skill sets they need to keep their communities functioning. What they’re good at is passing tests written by Californians. We need to make our kids fortune-makers right where they are, using their own, local resources.”

Cissna also wants to examine health care issues, including the uninsured, and how department agencies interrelate. There’s not enough emphasis on prevention for many of the agencies, she said.

The jurisdiction of federal and state agencies sometimes overlaps and competes. “Without good alliances, we lose money and it hurts people in a number of ways.”

Cissna is traveling throughout Southeast Alaska by ferry, to avoid the TSA’s search techniques.

Cissna is a 45-year Alaska resident. She said an element of her campaign is getting Alaskans talking about what future they want for themselves and their communities.

Cissna is one of four Democrats who have filed for Young’s seat. Others are Matt Moore of Anchorage, Doug Urquidi of Eagle River and Frank Vondersaar of Homer. They’ll square off in the Aug. 28 primary election.

Anchor Point Republican John R. Cox also has filed.