By FRITZ PETTYJOHN
After Governor Bill Sheffield and Justice Jay Rabinowitz combined to gerrymander me out of my State Senate seat, I ran for the State House in 1984, hoping to figure out a way to get revenge.
I got elected, but the House Republican minority of the 14th Alaska Legislature had around 14 members, and we were completely ineffective.
Sitka’s Rep. Ben Grussendorf was the Democratic Speaker, but he was only a figurehead. The power in the House was Finance Chair Al Adams of Kotzebue.
In the 13th Legislature, Al had been Finance Committee chair in a Republican organization. R’s and D’s didn’t mean anything to Al. He was in Juneau for his people, the Alaska Natives. He led the six members of the Bush Caucus, and they called the shots.
I was from South Anchorage, originally from California, and I didn’t have any experience with Alaska Natives. I quickly learned that they didn’t allow personal ambition or vanity to interfere with what was good for the group. They were communal, and Al was a prime example.
He was a brilliant guy, and he worked his butt off. He never showed any ego, and was as mild mannered and kind as a guy could be. Everybody loved and respected Al. When I left the Legislature I was proud to call him a friend.
Right now the Alaska House is adrift, with no one able to form a majority organization. But there apparently is one legislator who has the potential to bring people together – Josiah Patkotak from the North Slope.
Al Adams didn’t just serve the Native people of Alaska. He served the whole state. In his spirit, perhaps Josiah should step forward and take a leadership role. At least for the next two years.
I never got my revenge on Jay Rabinowitz, but I played a significant role in taking Bill Sheffield down. Day after day I raised hell on the House floor, demanding the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate his corruption. His Attorney General, Norm Gorsuch, was an honorable guy, and he knew I was right under the law. When he did as I was demanding, and appointed Dan Hickey, the die was cast. We almost impeached Sheffield, and he was resoundingly defeated in the 1986 Democratic primary.
Fritz Pettyjohn blogs at ReaganProject.com