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Christopher Young, perennial candidate and activist, dies at 51

Christopher F. Young attends a 2014 press conference regarding the Providence mayoral race.
Christopher F. Young attends a 2014 press conference regarding the Providence mayoral race.Ian Donnis

PROVIDENCE – Christopher F. Young, an eccentric anti-abortion activist and longtime political antagonist whose frenetic antics during multiple campaigns for Congress and mayor of Providence made him a fixture in Rhode Island politics, died Tuesday evening. He was 51.

His death was confirmed in a Facebook post by his wife, Kara Russo. She said he likely suffered a heart attack while driving. The State Police said he was involved in a single-car accident on Route 95 in Cranston.

“I can’t believe I am writing this,” Russo wrote in a Facebook post Wednesday. “I can’t believe this has happened. But my husband, Chris Young, passed away last night. It was a medical event that happened while he was driving on the highway (most likely a heart attack), when we were coming home after we all testified in favor of the Fetal Heartbeat Bill at the Rhode Island Statehouse.”

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Young, of Narragansett, ran for office in every election cycle since at least 2000, usually losing by large margins in the Democratic primary. He ran for US Senate in 2000 under as a member of the Reform Party and ran for the same office in 2008 as an independent. He was a three-time candidate for the mayor.

Young was known for passionately opposing abortion laws, often chastising his Democratic opponents for being pro-choice. He regularly testified during State House hearings on abortion-related legislation.

But he became famous locally for his escapades on the campaign trail. From a hunger strike to serenading a local television anchor on air, Young understood how to garner attention for himself.

During the 2010 race for Providence mayor, he asked his partner, Russo, to marry him during a live televised debate. (She said yes.) The same year he was removed from a separate debate because he attempted to bring a Virgin Mary statue on stage.

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He was a frequent caller to local talk-radio shows, often demanding equal time when his opponents were interviewed on air. He would threaten news editors with lawsuits for failing to acknowledging that he was running for office, despite having little chance of winning.

Young would spend no money on his campaigns, and instead hold signs while standing on highway overpasses. Russo, his wife, has also run for office several times in the past. The two have a young daughter, Mary.

His life wasn’t easy.

He often said he was an orphan before his teenage years, but he worked his way on to the honor roll at Classical High School in the 1980s before attending Boston University.

He described himself as an electrical engineer and media consultant, and is still listed as the owner of the website URL, www.wheretovote.com.

Although he still ran for office and testified at the State House in recent years, he was often seen around the state with his wife and daughter. At a debate in 2014, the newborn smiled and giggled in a carriage while Young participated in a debate.

At a House Judiciary Committee hearing Tuesday evening, Young and his family sat together before the committee, taking turns speaking in favor of a resolution to restrict abortions.

Young became worked up, shouting at the lawmakers and accusing them of having an order not to allow the bill past committee.

Although two committee members attempted to calm him, Young ranted that God would judge them.

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“Take this under advisement -- You are going to face God,” Young said, and warned that their souls were on the line.


Dan McGowan can be reached at dan.mcgowan@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @danmcgowan. Amanda Milkovits can be reached at amanda.milkovits@globe.com