JUNEAU, Alaska (KTUU) - 2/6 Update:
As planned, Alaska Sen. Dennis Egan (D-Juneau), announced he won't seek re-election due to a multiple sclerosis diagnosis. He made the announcement on KINY radio.
Alaska Sen. Dennis Egan, one of the Legislature’s most colorful members, and certainly its saltiest, plans to announce his retirement live on radio Tuesday.
He said he will serve out the remainder of his term as a Democratic senator, but he will not stand for re-election in November.
Egan, who will turn 71 in two weeks, said his retirement is related to his health and not any political issue in the Legislature. Egan said he's had multiple sclerosis since 1978, though it was misdiagnosed as an optic nerve problem until MRI technology became common and he was scanned in the early 1980s.
Egan now has trouble with dizziness and his balance, especially around water – a big problem in a tidal community like Juneau. Even walking on a boat dock gives him trouble, he said. Moreover, he told Channel 2 that his health forced him to sell his beloved boat.
His aides say they worry about him falling, especially since he won’t use a cane outside his home.
Egan has been Juneau’s senator since 2009, when he was appointed by Gov. Sarah Palin to take the place of Kim Elton, who left for the Department of the Interior. His father, Bill Egan, was Alaska’s first state governor. Dennis Egan spent years as a radio broadcaster – a position that has always seemed a bit incongruous given the four-letter words that pepper his normal speech. He said he will make his retirement announcement Tuesday morning as a talk-show guest on KINY, which is a radio station he once owned.
Egan last faced voters in 2014, when he won a landslide victory against Republican opponent Tom Williams, getting more than 72 percent of the vote. Announcing his retirement now could open the race to competition.
One of his long-time aides, Jesse Kiehl, is in his last term on the assembly of the City and Borough of Juneau, which has term limits. Kiehl declined to discuss his plans out of deference to his boss’ planned radio announcement.
Larry Cotter, an independent and the head of a nonprofit fishing group, the Aleutian Pribilof Island Community Development Assn., filed notice last week with the Alaska Public Offices Commission that he intended to run for the seat in the Democratic primary. Cotter told the Juneau Empire that he was 65 and retiring from his job. His compensation was $337,500, according to APICDA’s 2015 nonprofit tax returns, the most recent available. That was a $12,000 raise from the year before, the nonprofit returns show.
Egan joined the Republican majority caucus in the Senate for the 2013-2014 sessions, and he was rewarded with the chairmanship of the Senate Transportation Committee, which is an important post for the ferry-dependent Southeast. But he’s been in the Senate minority caucus since.
Correction: This story was updated to clarify the fact that although Cotter planned to run in the Democratic primary, he planned to run as an independent candidate.