Rep. Kerttula gets nod from Juneau Dems

Posted: Thursday, March 05, 2009

Juneau Democratic Party leaders will send the name of Rep. Beth Kerttula, and only Kerttula, to Gov. Sarah Palin for nomination to the Senate seat held until Monday by Kim Elton.

"Midway through a 90-day session, we felt really strongly we had to go forward with one name, and someone who could step right into the Senate," said Kim Metcalfe, chairwoman of the Juneau Democrats.

The rushed application process began even before Elton was formally selected to join the administration of President Barack Obama ad Director of Alaska Affairs for the Department of the Interior.

Still, Metcalfe said it produced a remarkable slate of candidates, including former Reps. Andrea Doll, D-Juneau, and Sally Smith, D-Fairbanks, and corporate leaders Gordon Jackson of Sealaska and Kake Tribal Corps., Peter Naoroz of Kootznoowoo, Inc., and Joe Nelson of the University of Alaska Southeast.

Two other top candidates, Tim Grussendorf, a fisherman and finance committee staffer, and Bob Loescher, former Sealaska CEO, were dropped from consideration for not having been registered Democrats for a full year, Metcalfe said.

"We felt strongly they should be a registered Democrat for a year before they were appointed to the seat," she said. "We felt like we should have seen that kind of commitment to the party."

The last member of the Alaska Legislature to be appointed, Wes Keller, was nominated during the summer, giving the Matanuska Republicans more time, Metcalfe said.

"We are just up against the wall, time-wise," she said.

Palin has 30 days to make her appointment, which must then be confirmed by a majority of the Senate's nine remaining Democrats. She has not said what her timeline or process for selection would be.

"Beth is the right person for the job," Metcalfe said. "We're just really hopeful the governor will go along with our nominee and get Juneau some representation in the Senate," she said.

If Palin does send Kerttula to the Senate, it would open her House seat and start the same process over again. Metcalfe said in that case she expects many of those who applied for the Senate seat, and others, to seek the "downtown" Juneau seat that Kerttula now represents.

The Senate District B that Elton represented covers all of Juneau. House District 3, which Kerttula Represents, includes Downtown, Thane, Douglas Island, and as far north as the airport area. Kerttula has represented District 3 since 1998.

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