Juneau mayor suggests Egan to bridge gap

Suggestion for capital city's Senate seat wins quick, bipartisan support

Posted: Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Juneau Mayor Bruce Botelho is pushing for former Mayor Dennis Egan to be appointed to represent the capital city in the Alaska Senate, a move that has won quick - and bipartisan - support from some influential legislators.

Juneau has been without a senator since Kim Elton resigned in March to take a position in the Obama administration. Gov. Sarah Palin and Democrats have disagreed about who should fill the seat.

"The Legislature is now in its final week and, while much of the legislative business is complete, issues of importance to Juneau remain to be acted upon," Botelho said.

Botelho said he asked Egan for permission to place his name in consideration, and received the OK to do so. He said Egan worked on behalf of Juneau regardless of party.

"Though he has been a lifelong Democrat and son to Alaska's first governor, he has always worked in a bipartisan manner toward a better community and state," Botelho said.

Egan said he was willing to have his name put forward for the position. He had earlier declined.

"Bruce is just trying to relieve the log jam that's going on," Egan said.

Rep. Beth Kerttula, D-Juneau, originally sought the appointment from Palin, but had been rebuffed. Kerttula supported Botelho's call.

"Dennis is a great choice," she said.

Senate Democrats must confirm any appointment by Palin, and they've twice rejected her nominations. Kerttula said she'll encourage other Democrats to agree to Egan's nomination.

"He probably knows everybody in Juneau," she said. "I've known him my entire life."

Leaders of the Juneau Democratic Party, who had balked at earlier Palin appointees, said Egan was acceptable to them.

"The officers of the Greater Juneau Democrats concur with Mayor Botelho that Dennis Egan is a capable person for the job," said Kim Metcalfe, Juneau Democratic chair.

As the son of Bill Egan, the president of the state's Constitutional Convention and its first governor, Dennis Egan has one of the best-known names in both Juneau and Alaska politics.

Before becoming governor, Bill Egan lived in Valdez, where Rep. John Harris, R-Valdez, knew him and his family. He endorsed Dennis Egan as well.

Harris said their families' connections went back 80 years. He said an appointment of Dennis Egan would be a golden opportunity for the governor and Democrats to bring a man from a storied Alaska family to the Senate.

"Gov. Bill Egan was a strong advocate for all Alaskans, be they rural or urban, Democrat or Republican. He never let a party label get in the way of what is right for Alaska. His son, Dennis, has the same attributes as his father," Harris said.

The Senate's nine remaining Democrats must confirm any Palin appointment. They had earlier rejected Tim Grussendorf, who switched his voter registration to Democrat to be eligible for the appointment, and Joe Nelson, a little-known college administrator.

Palin, in turn, rejected Democratic suggestions, including Kerttula and other well-known local Democrats.

Egan said he had earlier declined consideration because he supported Kerttula.

"I thought Beth Kerttula was the natural choice," he said.

Egan is a longtime Alaska broadcaster, though he recently sold his Juneau radio stations.

"I'm retired, sort of," he said.

Egan continues to host the popular "Problem Corner" call-in show weekday mornings.

Palin spokesperson Sharon Leighow said she had not yet heard Palin's reaction to the suggestion.

• Contact reporter Pat Forgey at 586-4816 or patrick.forgey@juneauempire.com.

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