Veteran Republican lawmaker retires

Posted: Sunday, May 07, 2000

JUNEAU (AP) -- Veteran Sen. Tim Kelly announced Saturday that he won't seek re-election this year.

The Anchorage Republican is the fifth senator to announce his retirement this year, assuring that at least a quarter of the 20-member Senate will be new next year.

Kelly, who spent 22 of the past 24 years in the Legislature, said he wanted to stay home with his wife and two young children.

''We'll be active and enthusiastic participants in all those activities Alaskans cherish most -- camping, fishing, playing hockey and criticizing the Legislature,'' Kelly told his colleagues just before lawmakers adjourned their special session on state employee contracts.

A native of Sacramento, Calif., Kelly, 55, served as Senate President in 1989 and 1990 and ran the powerful Rules Committee for the past four sessions.

While not prone to lengthy speeches on the Senate floor, Kelly was known as a master operator in the legislative process, particularly during the end of the session rush when complex adjournment deals are cut involving dozens of bills and billions of dollars.

''He really will be a loss,'' said Gov. Tony Knowles, a Democrat. Knowles said he respected Kelly as a worthy partisan opponent and also for his work to build bipartisan support for the University of Alaska Anchorage and other causes.

''He got things done,'' Knowles said. ''He just liked to get things done.''

Kelly said he was proudest of his efforts to preserve and grow the Alaska Permanent Fund. He has advocated spending some of the fund's earnings on education and aid to local governments.

Kelly's career was marred in 1997 by accusations that he made racist comments during a political argument with the president of the Anchorage chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Celeste Graham-Hodge said Kelly was drunk when he insulted her at an Anchorage restaurant. Hodge claimed that Kelly said all black people are uneducated, stupid and prefer to file lawsuits rather than work.

Kelly apologized, saying he had two or three drinks but didn't remember leveling specific insults at the woman or making demeaning comments about blacks.

Former Republican Rep. Terry Martin already has filed for Kelly's east Anchorage seat, as has Democrat Hugh Wade.

Along with Kelly, veteran Democrat Al Adams of Kotzebue; Senate Majority Leader Jerry Mackie, R-Craig; Senate Finance Committee co-chairman Sean Parnell, R-Anchorage; and former Senate President Mike Miller, R-North Pole, are all retiring.

''I don't know since statehood that there's ever been a time that five senior members have left willingly,'' Senate President Drue Pearce said.

Republicans currently dominate the Senate 15-5, but could lose some of that edge in the November election.

In the House, six members are departing. Gary Davis, R-Soldotna; Ben Grussendorf, D-Sitka; and Gail Phillips, R-Homer, have announced plans to retire. Alan Austerman, R-Kodiak; Gene Therriault, R-North Pole; and John Cowdery, R-Anchorage, are seeking Senate seats.

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