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HomeAlmanacRepublican powerhouse Aaron Downing passes, 87

Republican powerhouse Aaron Downing passes, 87

Aaron Downing, politically active in Alaska Republican Party politics, died of natural causes on Sunday, Nov. 15. He was 87, spending his final days at Mat-Su Regional Hospital, where his family was with him during his last hours.

He was born in Montana and as a young boy came to Fairbanks with his father, who was a cook at a mining camp. He grew up in Fairbanks, graduating from Fairbanks High School, many years before statehood.

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Aaron attended the University of Alaska (Fairbanks) and was the school’s first electrical engineering graduate.

He eventually became a contractor, starting Alaska Utility Construction, and putting power lines along the Glenn Highway and across the road system in Alaska in the 1960s and 1970s. He brought power to thousands of Alaskans and businesses over the course of his long career.

He and his wife Donna remained married for 68 years and he was father to Phil, Laurie, and Lisa Downing.

While running his own electrical contracting company, he refused the IBEW’s pressure to be unionized, fighting the union for many years, eventually prevailing in court. During that time, he had to fortify security around his home to prevent violence and vandalism from the union. His electrical knowledge was put to good use in this era in his life.

Aaron loved sourdough pancakes, hunting and fishing, and had a wicked sense of humor. He was an avid pilot, a devoted family man, and was very active in Mat-Su politics. He was regional chairman for the Alaska Republican Party and held many other roles in the GOP, and worked on countless campaigns.

In 2019, Downing was part of the lawsuit in which he, David Thompson, and Jim Crawford initiated a challenge over the $500 annual cap on individual donations to candidates. Their case went to the Supreme Court and last year the court ordered the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to reconsider the case.

“Last night we lost someone very special, my grandfather, Aaron Downing. My best friend, my confidant, my mentor. Every day on my morning commute I would call, and he would answer. Nearly every single day, for years…. We had many adventures, too many to count. He always had time for me and that was true of all his grandkids. He loved his family, he loved Alaska, always involved in helping make his world a better place. He may no longer answer my calls, but I know he will still be listening,” wrote Lyle Downing, one of his grandsons, on Facebook.

Plans for a celebration of life will be announced later, Lyle Downing said.

Suzanne Downing
Suzanne Downing
Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.


  1. Sad but heart-warming. Thanks Suzanne Downing… Downing!? Are you related? If so, sorry for your loss.
    Truly love hearing about people like this. I have friends and people I work with that have different political views than me and I have always found that the best way to change their bigotry towards people that see the world as I do, is to just let them see I’m a logical, smart, kind, polite and loving person with genuine compassion for strangers and the less fortunate, just like them. It helps. They still seem to look at me wide-eyed when I don’t agree with something they consider fact, but at least I make them wonder why a guy like me would believe such a thing instead of just assuming that all people that don’t like unions (for example) are wealthy and greedy or uneducated, tribal, and brainwashed. So sharing stories like this I believe are really important. Well done.

  2. Aaron was a man of immense integrity and a walking encyclopedia of political precedents. As plaintiffs, we won before the US Supreme Court. The Supremes overturned the Ninth Circuit when they ruled that the cap of $500 for Alaskans was unconstitutional. We shared a ferver for protecting Alaskans from professional manipulation by national groups who try to buy Alaska elections.

    Rest in peace, my friend.

  3. Although I never met him in person, I spoke with him often on the telephone. He was one of my favorite people and he will be missed!

  4. Aaron Downing was a one of the kind man, he was my friend and I will miss him and am sorry I did not make the time these past few years to have lunch or break out time to visit with him more often….but I will remember the many phone conversations we had over the years about one problem or another. I never came away from any of the conversations without a path to a solution….and increased confidence we were going to make the problem work for us in the end….When I was at the AEA we awarded a number of projects to Aaron and all were difficult bush projects but he knew his business and did a remarkable job on every one of them in spite of some of the attacks suffered from the IBEW and the ADN….but Aaron was an honest and extremely knowledgeable contractor and knew the bush well and was always there to go that extra mile to get the job done right….he left every place he worked better than he found it…

  5. I dealt with Aaron frequently decades ago and he was an honest, hard working man who dedicated his life to making Alaska the best place to live and raise a family.

  6. I recall being a juror back in the 80’s, I think, when Aaron Downing sued the IBEW for making threats, intimidation, destruction of private property, and trespassing. We found the IBEW guilty as charged and awarded a large monetary amount. I later learned the award was significantly reduced. So much for justice. Aaron Downing was not afraid to stand up against terrorism, which it was.

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