Rep. Don YoungDonald (Don) Edwin YoungImpeachment demonstrates dire need for term limits House approves pro-union labor bill House GOP introduces bill to secure voter registration systems against foreign hacking MORE's (R-Alaska) Democratic opponent is saying the longtime congressman threatened him before taking the stage at a debate earlier this week.


Democrat Forrest Dunbar told the Alaska Dispatch News that Young "freaked out" on him during a pre-debate backstage discussion on Wednesday night.

Dunbar said Young accused him of not being from his hometown of Cordova, Alaska and had him "looked into."

"He freaked out," Dunbar said of Young's reply. "There is no other way to describe it. ... He kind of snarled at me and said, 'Don't you ever touch me. Don't ever touch me. The last guy who touched me ended up on the ground dead."

Dunbar said he waved his arm in a dismissive gesture and started to walk away, which led to Young swishing his own hand in the air tauntingly and saying, "Oh, you got a sweet swing."

The 30-year-old Alaskan National Guard reservist said that the 81-year-old Young was "blustering" and "all bark" and that he didn't feel "seriously threatened" by the encounter.

Young's spokesman argued that Dunbar was trying to "change the conversation."

"Certainly he used some hyperbole there in saying 'don't touch me.' Obviously the congressman used some hyperbole in his statement. That's very clear to everyone," Young spokesman Matt Shuckerow told The Hill on Saturday before saying he wasn't there for the confrontation between the two men and hasn't talked to Young about it.

"This is nothing new to us, this is our opponent trying to change the conversation and not making this about the actual issues," Shuckerow continued.

The story was partly corroborated to ADN by an employee of the radio station that sponsored the debate.

The altercation came up a bit later during the debate.

After Young accused Dunbar of immaturity, he responded that "Immaturity was the thing you said behind the curtain there, Congressman Young.”  

"Tell me what I said," Young replied.

"Very nice," replied Dunbar before pivoting off the issue.

Young has a history of controversy. Earlier this year he was caught on camera aggressively twisting a congressional staffer's arm, a move he later apologized for.

He was asked about that encounter during the debate, responding by saying he was a trained military veteran.

"Don't touch me unexpectedly. Don't do that. He did. He won't again," he said.

Young is the longest-serving House Republican, first entering Congress in 1973. He is expected to easily win another term.