GOP leader to step down

Sean Parnell says he won't run for re-election to Senate

Posted: Monday, April 10, 2000

One of Alaska's most powerful legislators is putting in his last few weeks at the Capitol.

Sen. Sean Parnell, co-chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, announced today that he won't run for another term. The 37-year-old Anchorage Republican said this morning that he'd announce his decision on the Senate floor.

With his Senate seat up for re-election this year, he and his wife, Sandy, talked about spending another four years at the Capitol, Parnell said. They decided against it.

``This was strictly a family decision,'' he said. ``I'd like to say that I married my wife because I want to spend time with her.

``We simply want to live year-round together in the same place - our Anchorage home.''

He said two big reasons for his departure are two little ones - his daughters Grace, 8, and Rachel, 5. When they were younger, he said, the annual moves from Anchorage to Juneau and back were easier. Now, with school and the like, he doesn't want to go through packing and unpacking again - after 16 such moves.

Parnell served two terms - from 1992 to 1996 - in the House before joining the Senate. Born in Hanford, Calif., Parnell has lived in Anchorage since 1973, where he works as an attorney.

Looking back, Parnell said he's most proud of his work on two issues, the Domestic Violence Act of 1996, which provided detailed policies for domestic violence response for the entire state, and his work on making the state's budget a bit more accessible to Alaskans.

He said he was drawn to work on domestic violence because of what he saw while riding along on police patrols and because of tales of how domestic violence was approached differently in rural Alaska and in the state's urban areas.

``There was no consistent statewide policy,'' Parnell said.

He said he'd never really been exposed to the issue before riding with the police, but was compelled to push for a change. He was one of the legislative champions of the domestic violence measure, which was introduced by Gov. Tony Knowles.

The budget work is not quite complete. Parnell said a budget book, where numbers are listed along with agency missions, should be ready soon. That way, people will have a better idea how lawmakers are spending the state's money, he said, and that will make politicians and bureaucrats more accountable.

``The budget has been a mystery to most people,'' he said.

Parnell said he's talked to the two House members representing his district - Republican Reps. Con Bundy and John Cowdery - but he's not touting anyone as a replacement.

He considers stepping down from the seat a promotion.

``I'm looking forward to being a citizen again,'' Parnell said. ``I feel like I'm moving up.''

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