Egan will not run for re-election

Sen. Dennis Egan, D-Juneau

Sen. Dennis Egan, D-Juneau

Sen. Dennis Egan, D-Juneau, will not run for re-election.

Egan made the announcement, which had been expected, in a Tuesday morning interview on KINY-AM, one of three Juneau radio stations he used to own and operate.

“It’s emotional. It’s tough for me, but my health’s got to take precedent,” he told the Empire on Tuesday afternoon.

Egan was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in the 1980s and suffers from various ailments, including vertigo so severe that he is unable to be on open water, even on dock floats.

“If I go down to the docks … it just drives me crazy,” he told Pete Carran of KINY.

In the KINY interview, Egan became emotional as he explained how he had to sell the family boat.

“One of the worst things I ever had to do was sell it, but I had a great person who bought it, the Hoonah harbormaster, Paul Dybdahl,” he said.

Egan said he will fulfill the rest of his term, which expires in January, but he will not seek re-election in November.

He said it isn’t fair to constituents in other parts of his district if he can’t visit them or their communities.

“The main thing for me, is I don’t think it’s fair to my constituents … even the night watchman in Excursion Inlet, it’s not fair to them because I have a heck of a time traveling,” he said.

Egan told the Empire that he also has trouble walking.

Juneau’s Larry Cotter has officially stated his intent to run for Egan’s Senate seat as a nonpartisan candidate. It is not clear who else may apply to run for Egan’s seat, but one of the leading candidates is current Juneau assemblyman and Egan aide Jesse Kiehl.

Kiehl, who is term-limited on the Assembly, has kept money in his campaign account since his last local election victory. He is prohibited by conflict-of-interest laws from making an official statement on his interest in the seat, he previously told the Empire.

Egan’s colleagues universally praised him for his work in the Legislature. Sen. Bert Stedman, R-Sitka, is Southeast Alaska’s other delegate to the Alaska Senate.

“He’s been really good to work with,” Stedman said, explaining that Sen. Egan has always been willing to work with him on issues pertaining to Southeast.

“He definitely has had a broader view than Juneau, and that’s appreciated,” Stedman said.

“I appreciate all of his service, and he’s worked very hard to try to work through his medical issues to represent his district,” said Rep. Sam Kito III, D-Juneau.

Kito has represented one of the House districts within Egan’s district since 2014. Kito himself has said he is not sure whether he will run for re-election this fall and on Tuesday said he is still uncertain.

Rep. Justin Parish, D-Juneau, was born and raised in Juneau and has lived almost his entire life with Egan as an elected official. He himself was elected to the Legislature in 2016.

“I’m grateful that I got to work with him,” Parish said. “He’s earned his retirement several times over. I wish him all the joy in it.”

Egan was appointed to the Alaska Senate in 2009 by then-Gov. Sarah Palin. His selection that year ended a series of failed attempts to name other people to the seat vacated by Sen. Kim Elton, D-Juneau. Egan joined the bipartisan majority in charge of the Senate and was elected on his own merits to the seat in 2010. He won re-election in 2014 as well, earning 72 percent of the vote in a race against Republican Tom Williams.

Egan, son of Gov. Bill Egan, served in the military and became a successful Juneau businessman, owning three radio stations including KINY. He became even more widely known across the borough as the host of “Problem Corner,” the regular call-in show on KINY.

He served on the City and Borough of Juneau Planning Commission before being elected to two terms on the CBJ Assembly starting in 1989. Named deputy mayor during his second term, he became mayor in February 1995 when Byron Mallott resigned to head the Alaska Permanent Fund Corp. Egan won the seat in his own right the next October, then won re-election. He left office in 2000 and sold his stake in the radio stations in 2008.

Egan has been a frequent contributor to local causes and efforts, including the Alaska Committee, which in 1994 defeated a capitol move proposal.

Asked about his plans upon leaving office, Egan said he intends to remain involved with local causes after his replacement is sworn in.

Beyond that, he can’t wait to sleep in.

“That’s one cool thing, but not until next January,” he said.

• Contact reporter James Brooks at or call 523-2258.

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