Egan wins Senate appointment

Compromise ends standoff between Palin, Democrats

Posted: Monday, April 20, 2009

Gov. Sarah Palin on Sunday appointed former Mayor Dennis Egan to represent Juneau in the Alaska Senate, after the community has been without representation for more than half of the 2009 legislative session.

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Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire

Senate Democrats met in a secret meeting an hour before Palin's announcement and "unanimously and enthusiastically" confirmed Egan to the position.

The appointment also won quick praise from Reps. Beth Kerttula and Cathy Muñoz, Mayor Bruce Botelho and Juneau Democratic Party leaders.

Egan was welcomed onto the Senate floor for swearing in just before the session adjourned Sunday evening, and was seated for the first time.

"It's a deep honor for represent the citizens of this community," Egan said.

Palin praised Senate Democrats, who under state law must approve her appointment, for working with her to name former Sen. Kim Elton's replacement. Earlier, Palin had been appointing, abandoning and then reappointing senators. On Saturday, she was backing legislative aide Tim Grussendorf, but on Sunday gave Egan the nod.

Grussendorf and college administrator Joe Nelson were rejected by Senate Democrats. A third, Alan Wilson, was not a valid appointment, Senate Democrats said, and he was never confirmed.

Palin alluded to the conflict Sunday, saying, "you saw some sausage making." At Palin's announcement of Egan's appointment on a sunny Court Plaza, everyone was all smiles after reaching agreement on the popular former Juneau mayor.

"It was a bit of a road to get here, but she's made a good choice," Senate Majority Leader Johnny Ellis said.

Egan had not originally been on the list of candidates recommended by Juneau Democratic Party leaders, which included Rep. Beth Kerttula, Assembly member Jeff Bush, former Mayor Sally Smith and former Rep. Mike Miller, D-Juneau.

Palin rejected those people and instead appointed three people who failed to win confirmation. With pressure put on by Botelho and Ellis, Juneau party leaders Sunday placed Egan on their list of candidates and Palin appointed him.

"I'm glad that it worked out," Ellis said.

Juneau's legislative delegation praised the choice, and the fact that Juneau now has a senator.

"We were definitely at a disadvantage not having a senator," Muñoz said.

A key decision yet to be made is what Egan's committee assignment's will be. Elton held a coveted seat on the powerful Senate Finance Committee, and also served as chair fo the Senate Education Committee.

Senate President Gary Stevens said the Senate's bi-partisan coalition, the Senate Working Group, will decide on the assignments in the interim.

Kerttula said she was happy to both have a full delegation, and a senator with the "confidence of his community."

"I think it's great. I'm glad to have a senator. Beyond belief," said Kerttula, the party's first choice for the seat, and the only name initially submitted.

Asked what had changed her mind, Palin said she wanted to conclude the process and make sure Juneau had representation before the Legislature adjourned.

"We wanted to make sure that we ended this session, the first half of the 26th Legislature, on a good note. And this is a good note," Palin said.

Egan has one of the best-known names in Alaska politics. His father was the state's first and fourth governor, as well as being a territorial legisltaor and constitutional convention president.

Egan declined to say if he would run when the seat comes open next year.

Egan retired last year after selling his Juneau radio stations but continues to host a popular talk show, "Problem Corner."

Kerttula said Egan will do a good job.

"If we can keep him from telling any bad jokes, we'll all be fine," she said.

• The Associated Press reporter Anne Sutton contributed to this story.

• Contact reporter Pat Forgeyat 523-2250 or e-mail

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