Sitkan tabbed to replace Taylor

Elkins dropped after comments about helping fund Murkowski campaign

Posted: Sunday, November 09, 2003

SITKA - Gov. Frank Murkowski said Saturday that Sitka businessman Bert Stedman is his new choice to fill the state Senate vacancy created by the resignation of Wrangell Republican Robin Taylor.

The announcement came two days after Murkowski withdrew his nomination of former Ketchikan bar owner Jim Elkins.

After a stop in Sitka, Murkowski left for Ketchikan to make the announcement to local Republicans, including Elkins, who offered a terse comment about Stedman's nomination.

"He's the governor's choice," Elkins told The Associated Press on Saturday.

Murkowski said he will forward Stedman's name to the Senate for consideration this week. As senator for District A, Stedman would represent Sitka, Petersburg, Ketchikan and Wrangell.

Stedman was one of two Sitkans on the short list for appointment to the District A seat at the time Elkins was named. Rollo Pool was the other. A fourth candidate, state Rep. Peggy Wilson, a Wrangell Republican, withdrew her name from consideration for the seat after the governor said he would not support Elkins.

Stedman, 47, is a financial planner and owner of Pioneer Capital Management in Sitka.

Before earning a bachelor's degree from the University of Oregon in 1985, Stedman worked in the construction and fishing industries. He and his wife Lureen have an 8-year-old daughter, Susie.

He served eight years on the Sitka Planning Commission, beginning in 1987. In 1995, he was appointed by the Assembly to fill a one-year vacancy left when one of the members was elected mayor. Stedman was elected to a three-year term on the Assembly in 1996 and served one year as deputy mayor. He did not run for re-election in 1999.

Stedman said he was not personally acquainted with the governor, and although he is a Republican has not been particularly active in party affairs, the Sentinel reported.

Murkowski had selected Elkins on Oct. 14. But Elkins' inappropriate comments to the press about why he was appointed cost him his job, according to John Manly, a spokesman for Murkowski.

Manly said Elkins stated in a radio interview shortly after the Oct. 14 appointment "that he got the appointment because of his contributions during the (2002 gubernatorial) campaign."

"That's just not acceptable in the governor's mind," Manly said. "That's not why he got the appointment."

In an Oct. 14 interview with Deanna Garrison of KRBD radio in Ketchikan, Elkins, when asked why he thought he had been picked over other nominees, stated: "I'm a lifetime Republican. I've worked on both the governor's campaigns. When he ran for the Senate and when he ran for the governor I was on his campaign. ... I've been Don Young's man in Ketchikan for 30 years. I've raised a lot of money for those guys."

The following day the radio segment ran statewide on Alaska Public Radio Network.

Elkins, who has been a lobbyist, served two terms on the Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly and has contributed to campaigns for Murkowski, Young, Taylor and U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens.

"The governor probably lacks the legal authority to withdraw my nomination, but I understand that I will not be confirmed by the Senate without his support," Elkins told the Associated Press on Friday.

When Murkowski announced the appointment in October, he said in a press release: "Jim knows the communities, knows the issues and won't be timid when it comes to standing up for his district in the Senate."

The prediction that Elkins would be outspoken came true during a speech given to Ketchikan seniors.

On Oct. 24, one day after meeting with Senate Republicans who would confirm the appointment, Elkins spoke to Ketchikan's AARP, a seniors organization, according to an article in the Ketchikan Daily News.

"If the governor has a heart - and we have to assume that somewhere he has a small heart - he won't be as mean as he was last year," Elkins was quoted as saying.

The Daily News article also reported that Elkins vowed not to follow the wishes of the governor blindly and to take constituents' welfare into account.

"I am not a person who believes the leadership is right all the time or that the governor is right all the time," he said.

Manly said the comments drew complaints from constituents and some Senate members.

"We can accept these things in the venue that he was speaking," Manly said.

Murkowski could not, however, accept Elkins suggesting that he was appointed because he had contributed money to Murkowski's campaign, Manly said.

• Tim Inklebarger contributed to this report. He can be reached at timothyi@juneauempire.com.



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