Palin names three to Senate seat

Former mayor Dennis Egan not among slate sent to Democrats

Posted: Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Gov. Sarah Palin has appointed three people to the vacant Juneau Senate seat, and asked Senate Democrats to confirm one of them. Two of those already have been rejected: Tim Grussendorf and Joe Nelson.

The third name Palin submitted was new - Alan Wilson, a Juneau contractor.

"This is getting ridiculous," said Kim Metcalfe, Juneau Democratic Party chair.

"Just when you think things can't get any stranger, they get stranger," said Sen. Hollis French, D-Anchorage.

Palin described all three candidates as "qualified Juneau Democrats, willing and able to serve." Like Grussendorf, Wilson had re-registered as a Democrat, in this case after former Sen. Kim Elton, D-Juneau, resigned to take a position with the Obama administration.

State law calls for Palin to appoint "a qualified person;" instead, Palin appointed three.

The move sparked quick criticism from Senate Democrats.

"I was absolutely dismayed; I was stunned," said Sen. Bill Wielechowski, D-Anchorage, one of the nine Democratic senators who must confirm Palin's appointment.

"This is a finger in our eye; it's unfortunate," French said.

Wielechowski and French said the appointment doesn't appear to comply with state law, which calls for a single name. It also does not allow rejected names to be resubmitted.

Palin's move, which came late Tuesday, seemed to ignore an effort by Mayor Bruce Botehlo to nominate former Mayor Dennis Egan as a compromise candidate.

Wielechowski said Botehlo had worked hard to find a compromise candidate and get all factions on board to return Juneau representation to the Senate.

"The mayor of Juneau went out and moved mountains to make this compromise happen," he said. "An olive branch was extended to the governor, and instead of accepting it, she lit it on fire."

The newly named appointee, Wilson, is owner of Alaska Renovators, Inc., a contractor that has done light commercial and residential remodeling in Juneau since 1988. Wilson was previously from California, he said in his application letter.

"We need someone with an open mind, a business and/or blue collar background and a talent for building consensus," Wilson wrote. "I believe I am this person."

He is currently the legislative affairs chair for the Alaska State Home Building Association.

Wilson may have another unique attribute for the appointment. His wife is Sydney Mitchell, co-owner of Shoefly & Hudson, a downtown Juneau shoe store.

That's where Palin bought a pair of red Naughty Monkey pumps that she wore during her high-profile appearance with Sen. John McCain immediately after he tapped her to be his vice presidential running mate.

Shoefly & Hudson was featured on the front page of the Wall Street Journal and elsewhere after it was revealed as the fashionable governor's source for shoes.

French said he did not know when Senate Democrats would meet to consider Palin's latest appointment.

Wielechowski said he didn't know how the Democratic caucus would react to the appointment, but several have said the advice of the Juneau Democratic Party is important to them.

"I know there are a lot of people in the caucus who feel strongly this has got to be a name the Juneau Democrats approve of," he said.

Kerttula said senators were unlikely to approve someone who isn't really a Democrat.

"It's hurtful to my community, and she's really outside the statute," Kerttula said.

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



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