Tony Knowles (politician)

Tony Knowles
7th Governor of Alaska
In office
December 5, 1994  December 2, 2002
Lieutenant Fran Ulmer
Preceded by Walter J. Hickel
Succeeded by Frank Murkowski
Mayor of Anchorage
In office
Preceded by George M. Sullivan
Succeeded by Tom Fink
Personal details
Born (1943-01-01) January 1, 1943
Tulsa, Oklahoma, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Susan Knowles
Residence Anchorage, Alaska
Alma mater Yale University
Profession Businessman
Military service
Service/branch United States Army
Years of service 1962-1966

Vietnam War

Anthony Carroll "Tony" Knowles (born January 1, 1943) is an American Democratic politician and businessman who served as the seventh Governor of Alaska from December 1994 to December 2002. Barred from seeking a third consecutive term as governor in 2002, he ran unsuccessfully for the Senate in 2004 and again for governor in 2006.

Earlier life

Knowles was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He volunteered for the United States Army in 1962, joining the 82nd Airborne Division, and later served in Vietnam. Knowles achieved passage of legislation to create guaranteed veterans housing in the state's Pioneer's Homes, and honored their service through official days of recognition and the naming of Mount POW/MIA.[1]

He earned a degree in economics from Yale University in 1968. There, he was a Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity (Phi chapter) brother of George W. Bush. After graduation, he moved to Alaska and worked on oil drilling rigs on the North Slope and in Cook Inlet. In 1969, Knowles started his first of four restaurants including the Downtown Deli & Café in Anchorage.

An avid fly fisherman, cross-country skier, and (retired) marathon runner, Tony Knowles and his wife, former First Lady of Alaska Susan Knowles, currently reside in Anchorage, Alaska. They have three children, Devon, Luke, and Sara. His older brother, Porter Knowles, resides in Kansas.

Political career

After three terms in the Anchorage Assembly, he served two terms as mayor of Anchorage from 1981 to 1987. Knowles first ran for governor in 1990, but was defeated by Walter Hickel. In 1994, he defeated former lieutenant governor Stephen McAlpine in the Democratic primary and was elected governor in the general election. Knowles's election was surprisingly close, but he also benefitted from the split conservative vote due to a strong third-party gubernatorial bid by the sitting lieutenant governor. In the election, Knowles received 41.1%, Republican candidate Jim Campbell 40.8% and lieutenant governor Jack Coghill of the Alaskan Independence Party 13%.

Knowles won the 1998 election in a landslide, defeating Republican John Lindauer 51%-18%. Knowles's margin of victory in this race was due largely to a collapsed campaign from Republican John Lindauer, controversy surrounding Lindauer and his misrepresentation of facts on campaign finance documents, and questions about Lindauer's state residency.[2] Republican Robin L. Taylor, who was defeated in the primary by Lindauer, garnered 20% of the vote after announcing his write-in campaign only one week prior to the election. Knowles did not run for reelection in 2002 due to a consecutive two-term limit. Alaska law allows for more terms, but requires a break between two consecutive terms and a third.

Knowles was chair of the Western Governors' Association in 1997, two-term chair of the Interstate Oil & Gas Compact Commission, and a member of the Pew Oceans Commission (POC).

During his term, Knowles established Denali Kid Care, which provides basic health care for 25,000 children and 5,000 pregnant women. The National Child Welfare League named Knowles as their Child Advocate of the Year in 1998.

A strong supporter of the Alaska National Guard, Knowles was recipient of the Guard's Pro Patria award and the 2001 Charles Dick Silver Medal of Merit.[3]

Governor Knowles forged the "Millennium Agreement", a government-to-government agreement with tribes to foster rural delivery of services and economic development. He earned special recognition by the National Congress of American Indians in 2001 and, with Marshall Lind, the 2002 Alaska Federation of Natives Denali Award, the highest award given to a non-native.[4]

Knowles pushed Canadian officials to adopt his "safe passage" principle to protect Pacific salmon and their freshwater habitat, leading to the successful negotiation of the first coast wide salmon treaty in decades.

During his final term as governor, Republicans in the Alaska Legislature attacked him as a weak leader who avoided taking a position on several issues, as exemplified by their "Where's Tony?" campaign.

In 2004, he ran for the United States Senate, as the Democratic challenger to Republican incumbent Lisa Murkowski, who had been appointed to her seat by her father, former Senator then Governor Frank Murkowski. Knowles was at first thought likely to win by many, but he was narrowly defeated in the election.

Knowles is an outspoken opponent of capital punishment.[5] Knowles is pro-choice, and opposes restrictions on abortion at any stage of pregnancy. He vetoed several bills passed by the state legislature regarding abortion including a ban on intact dilation and extraction abortions.[6]

On May 29, 2006, he announced his bid to return to the governor's office in 2006.[7] On August 22, 2006, Knowles defeated Eric Croft in the Democratic primary to become the Democratic nominee for Governor of Alaska in the general election.

On November 7, 2006, Knowles lost the Governorship in the general election to Republican Sarah Palin. Although many had predicted a close race, including pollsters for both parties, Knowles lost by 7 points, polling lower than in his 2004 bid for the U.S. Senate.

Obama Administration

In September 2008 Knowles became president of the National Energy Policy Institute, a non-profit energy policy organization funded by billionaire George Kaiser's family foundation, and located at the University of Tulsa.[8][9][10]

Due to his early support for Barack Obama, his status as a former governor of a western state, and his long-term involvement in oil and energy concerns, Knowles was discussed as a potential Secretary of the Interior or Secretary of Energy in an Obama cabinet. In December 2008 Knowles was passed over in favor of Steven Chu as Energy secretary, and passed over in favor of Ken Salazar as Interior secretary.[11] On April 28, 2010, Knowles was appointed to the National Park System Advisory Board by Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar.[12]

Electoral history

Alaska Gubernatorial Election 1990
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Alaskan Independence Walter Hickel 75,721 38.88
Democratic Tony Knowles 60,201 30.91
Republican Arliss Sturgulewski 50,991 26.18
Green Jim Sykes 6,563 3.37
Alaska Gubernatorial Election 1994
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Democratic Tony Knowles 87,693 41.09
Republican Jim Campbell 87,157 40.84
Alaskan Independence Jack Coghill 27,838 13.04
Green Jim Sykes 8,727 4.09
Alaska Gubernatorial Election 1998
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Democratic Tony Knowles (incumbent) 112,879 51.27
Republican Robin Taylor (write-in) 40,209 18.26
Republican John Lindauer 39,331 17.86
Republican Moderate Ray Metcalfe 13,540 6.15
Green Erica Jacobsson 6,618 3.01
Alaska U.S. Senate Race 2004[13]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Republican Lisa Murkowski 149,773 48.6%
Democratic Tony Knowles 140,424 45.6%
Independent Marc Millican 8,885 2.9%
Alaskan Independence Jerry Sanders 3,785 1.2%
Green Jim Sykes 3,053 1.0%
Libertarian Scott Kohlhaas 1,240 0.4%
Independent Ted Gianoutsos 726 0.2%
Independent Write Ins 423 0.1%
Alaska Gubernatorial Election 2006
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Republican Sarah Palin 114,697 48.33 -7.6
Democratic Tony Knowles 97,238 40.97 +0.3
Independent Andrew Halcro 22,443 9.46 n/a
Alaskan Independence Don Wright 1,285 0.54 -0.4
Libertarian Billy Toien 682 0.29 -0.2
Green David Massie 593 0.25 -1.0
Write-in candidate Write-in votes 384 0.16 +0.1
Plurality 17,459 7.36
Turnout 238,307 51.1
Republican hold Swing -7.6


  1. "Governor Honors Veterans At Wasilla Wall of Honor". Sitka Daily News. 13 Nov. 2002. Web. Retrieved 8 Sept. 2011.
  2. "In Alaska, Ex-Candidate Faces Criminal Charges." New York Times. 25 Aug. 1999. Web. Retrieved 8 Sept. 2011.
  3. "Charles Dick Medal of Merit." National Guard Association of the United States of America. Web. Retrieved 8 Sept. 2011. Click link at bottom for list of past recipients.
  4. Browning, Carla. "Chancellor Lind Receives AFN Denali Award." UAF News and Events. 28 Oct. 2002. Web. Retrieved 8 Sept. 2011.
  5. "Tony Knowles on VoteMatch." On the Issues. Retrieved 8 Sept. 2011
  6. " | Bills to Curb Abortions Are Vetoed in Alaska". New York Times. 1997-05-02. Retrieved 2010-06-20.
  7. | alaska : Knowles to run for governor Archived June 2, 2006, at the Wayback Machine.
  8. Rod Walton, "Green group to locate at TU," Tulsa World, March 11, 2009.
  9. Rod Walton, "Tulsa-based energy panel NEPI releases summary", Tulsa World, June 23, 2010.
  10. Marc Ambinder, "Can These Two Democrats Inject Rationalism Into the Energy Debate?", The Atlantic, July 14, 2010.
  11. Report: Former Alaska Gov. Knowles on list of Obama's possible Cabinet picks
  12. Former Gov. Knowles appointed to national board, Juneau Empire, April 29, 2010
  13. David Leip. "Dave Leip's Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections". Retrieved 2010-06-20.
Political offices
Preceded by
George M. Sullivan
Mayor of Anchorage
Succeeded by
Tom Fink
Preceded by
Walter J. Hickel
Governor of Alaska
Succeeded by
Frank Murkowski
Party political offices
Preceded by
Steve Cowper
Democratic nominee for Governor of Alaska
1990(lost), 1994 (won), 1998 (won)
Succeeded by
Fran Ulmer
Preceded by
Joe Sonneman
Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator from Alaska
(Class 3)

Succeeded by
Scott McAdams
Preceded by
Fran Ulmer
Democratic nominee for Governor of Alaska
Succeeded by
Ethan Berkowitz
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