Sam Kito III didn’t sleep much last Thursday after receiving a late night phone call. On the other end was Gov. Sean Parnell, informing Kito he’d be Juneau’s new member of the House of Representatives.
“There was just a whole lot of excitement,” Kito told the Empire on Friday, of finding out he was selected for the seat.
Parnell made the announcement official Friday at a press conference attended by legislative aides, reporters and the rest of Juneau’s legislative delegation — Democratic Sen. Dennis Egan and Republican Rep. Cathy Muñoz.
“I’m committed to make the most of the next two months,” Kito said. “I want to work toward Juneau and the rest of Southeast being a place where my daughter can live and thrive; a place she can raise her family; and a place where she can have a good job.”
Kito is filling a seat vacated when former Minority Leader Rep. Beth Kerttula resigned about a month ago to accept a fellowship at Stanford. He will have to be re-elected in November to serve in next year’s Legislature.
Kito edged out two other finalists forwarded to Parnell by the Tongass Democrats. They were City and Borough of Juneau assemblyman Jesse Kiehl and Catherine Reardon, a legislative aide who also serves on the Juneau Board of Education budget committee.
“Sam has a clear vision for the future he wants to create as a representative for the people here,” Parnell said from the Capitol. “He will speak very passionately about creating that future — not only for his daughter, but for sons and daughters around District 32 and around the state.
“He made it about the future here, his daughter and the sons and daughters of other Alaskans. That sold me,” Parnell added.
Following the meeting, Kiehl, a legislative aide to Egan, told reporters he intends to seek another term on the CBJ Assembly and currently has “no plans” to run for the representative seat in November.
“I look forward to working for Sen. Egan and helping Sam do the best he can for downtown Juneau and northern Southeast,” Kiehl said.
Kito is currently a registered lobbyist at the Capitol, and he works for two other lobbyists and the Alaska Massage Therapy Association that recently had two related bills introduced.
He told reporters Friday that he has not made “particular or individual” contributions to political candidates in the last 10 years.
Kito said ensuring the State Library Archives Museum is completed is one of his top short-term priorities, and that the overall economic landscape is the most pressing issue statewide.
His appointment is pending the approval of at least seven House Democrats, who are expected to discuss the appointment Monday night because many lawmakers are out of town this weekend.
Minority leader Rep. Chris Tuck, D-Anchorage, declined to make any commitments or predictions as to how the confirmation process might turn out.
Parnell encouraged the Democrats to take an open vote on the floor about the appointment rather than announcing a decision made behind caucus doors.
Kito said it would be premature to announce his candidacy for the November election, but added that he is “committed to representing this district for as long as the residents of this district will want me.”