Stateswoman passes: Arliss Sturgulewski, 1927-2022


Arliss Sturgulewski, a former Alaska state legislator and at one point the Republican nominee for Alaska governor, has passed. She was 94.

She was a member of the Alaska State Senate from 1978-1993, and ran for governor in 1986 and 1990. She lost to Democrat Steve Cowper in 1986 for governor.

In 1990, she was beat by Wally Hickel for governor. After she and lieutenant governor candidate Jack Coghill had won their respective races and formed a ticket, Coghill and others in the conservative wing of the party met with Sturgulewski in both Juneau and in Anchorage, and asked if she would support some of their conservative causes, such as development and limits on abortion.

She said she would not and that she would stick to her platform, not the Republican platform. Coghill then called Hickel and they formed up a third-party ticket at the last minute. That left Sturgulewski out in the cold, looking for a new running mate in the third week of September. She signed up Jim Campbell, an Anchorage business leader, who was president of Spenard Builders Supply. Hickel and Coghill ended up winning in November as members of the Alaskan Independence Party.

Sturgulewski was considered a liberal Republican who thought the Democratic Party was corrupt. She supported abortion rights, and was an ardent environmentalist.

When Democrat operatives tried to recall Gov. Mike Dunleavy in 2017, Sturgulewski was one of their first big sponsors of the recall petition. She left the Republican Party.

Sturgulewski was born on Sept. 27, 1927 in Blaine, Washington. She received her bachelor’s degree from University Washington, Seattle, 1949 and doctor of laws (honorary), from the University Alaska, Anchorage, 1993.

Friends celebrated her 90th birthday with her in 2017. Sturgulewski was active in politics until the past two years. Although she had lived in College Village in Anchorage for many years, she had been living in the Alaska Pioneers Home recently.

She was vice chairman New Capital Site Planning Commission in the 1970s, and was a member of member of the Anchorage Area Planning and Zoning Commission.

Sturgulewski is related to the family of Sen. Lisa Murkowski through marriage. Bernard Sturgulewski, her husband, died in a plane crash in 1968. Their son, Roe is married to Carol Murkowski, one of the six children of Nancy and former Gov. Frank Murkowski.

As a former lawmaker, Sturgulewski will be honored with flags flown at half staff in Alaska.

“My family sends our condolences to the family of former Senator Sturgulewski,” said Gov. Mike Dunleavy. “Arliss lived a long life and served this state and its largest city at important historical junctures. Her commitment to building a civic-minded Alaska will be remembered.”

Sturgulewski was recognized for her efforts in Alaska, including receiving the Anchorage YWCA Woman of Achievement award, the ATHENA Award, and Congregation Beth Sholom’s Shining Lights Award, the governor said.


  1. I remember coffees with Arliss and our attorney as we planned tribal-state relations with Palmer McCarter’s help. I now realize our first and only legal project with the help of TCC provided some great foundational ideas for improving the state’s sovereignty as well as a path for federal land settlement. We needed at the time a brief which would establish not just a clear state/federal relationship for the tribes in our state but also a rough draft road map for the settlement of the remainder of over 60% of the state’s lands under federal control. Too bad, we never followed through. She originally viewed it as a racial issue until she gradually understood the significance of tribal rights and powers not being affected by ANSCA and ANILCA. After that she was very helpful.

  2. I remember the actionable hostility to private property rights held by natives
    expressed by public state employees in Natural Resources and how Arliss was so cozy with them. They would go down to Juneau with budget authorizations for racially neutral programs they never did instead they clandestinely without authorization catalogued the mineral values of private native land willfully and purposefully. I suggested to a native elected official a budget action which “helped”. She is not a favorite of mine.

    • So this chick thinks a specific airline should drop me a native woman born in Alaska into a foreign communist country. That is right out of her tender well mannered heart. That is exactly the sentiments taught in her family. This, exactly, is an example of what natives deal with without let up in Alaska in 2022. Do you think your children should endure these nazi sentiments?

    • Maybe Alaska Airlines can parachute you into Siberia for a lengthy visit so that you can experience communism firsthand.
      You are very fortunate to live in a democracy where you can blow off steam by insulting people you disagree with!

  3. Today I was working as an observer for the local election and during a It’s breakfast time, I’m currently with guests I mentioned her name, didn’t know at the time that she had passed. I remember many political events that I catered for Arliss through the years. She was a good friend of my Mom’s and will be missed.

  4. The caucasian-owned private title was not surreptitiously catalogued. Only the Native private property. Very darling. Of course I saw with my own eyes. Being a Native in Alaska is so special.

  5. One of the first to get on board with abortion and gay rights, so I was glad that she lost her bid for governor. I’m never one to celebrate anyone’s death, but I had little regard for her stances on social issues.

  6. Jack Coghill never had any intention whatsoever as serving as the subordinate on a Sturgulewski/Coghill ticket. They were not team candidates leading up to the Republican Primary. Fate bound them on primary day, like two old divorcees forced to attend a family gathering. They hated each other. When Jack Coghill went to Joe Vogler for help, he said, “it will be a cold day in hell before I run as Arliss’ Lt. Governor.” Prior to 1990, they were both state senators, but disagreed on most things. Arliss turned to the support of Democrats and radical women’s libbers. Her environmental agenda was antithetical to resource development. It was Coghill who cooked-up the Hickel/Coghill ticket in 1990. Joe Vogler got John Lindauer to take himself off the Alaska Independence ticket so Hickel could bring his $million dollar wallet to the dance. And it was successful. Enough common sense, conservative Alaskans got together and turned down Arliss Sturgulewski. Arliss would have been a disaster as a governor. She kind of reminds us of another disaster……..Lisa Murkowski.

    • They’re all gone now. Coghill, Hickel, Vogler, Sturgulewski. All gone. As nice as Arliss’ was as a person, she really should have been a Democrat. What is it with all of these RINO Republicans? Their idealogy and philosophical boundaries clearly lay within the purview of the Leftists. Most Lefties and partisan Democrats have no true operational business sense. Maybe business theory, but not enough common sense to run a state government. Coghill, Hickel, and even Joe Vogler had that kind of sense. Arliss?
      NO! And the majority of Alaskans knew this.

      • Poor Coghill. Just like Rodney Dangerfield, he got no respect. Arliss would have fed him to the dogs if elected. Hickel did feed him to the dogs.

        • Vogler, an attorney, was hardly poison. A constitutional expert with high morals and a whole lot of common sense. Maybe auto zone doesn’t know about these things? Probably stick to selling car parts.

  7. Arliss was a wonderful lady. I met her 40 years ago as we tried to organize the Senate. We had ten votes, and Jalmar Kerttula had 10. We lost when Jan Faiks abandoned us. Arliss was a principled politician whose word was her bond.

Comments are closed.