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Tony Knowles (politician)

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Former Gov. Tony Knowles

Anthony Carroll "Tony" Knowles (born January 1 1943 in Tulsa, Oklahoma), American Democratic politician and businessman, was Governor of Alaska from December 1994 to December 2002.

After three terms on the Anchorage Municipal 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 Joseph Hickel. In 1994, he defeated former lieutenant governor Steve McAlpine in the Democratic primary. In the generally Republican state of Alaska, Knowles's victory was largely brought about by the extremely negative campaign strategy used by the Republican candidate Jim Campbell. In the election, Knowles received 41.1%, 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%. He did not run for reelection in 2002 due to a two-term limit.

Knowles was chair of the Western Governor's Association in 1997, two-term chair of the Interstate Oil & Gas Compact Commission, and a member of the Pew Oceans Commission (POC). His membership in the POC caused him later problems due to the anti-fishing industry stance taken by that organization.

During his term, Knowles established Denali Kid Care, which provided 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 role the Alaska National Guard plays in responding to state emergencies and national defense, Knowles was recipient of the Guard's Pro Patria award and the 2001 Charles Dick Silver Medal of Merit.

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 the Alaska Federation of Natives Denali Award, the highest award given to a non-native.

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.

Knowles did not run for re-election as governor. In 2004 he ran for the United States Senate, as the Democratic challenger to Republican incumbent Lisa Murkowski. Knowles was at first thought likely to win by many, but he was narrowly defeated in the election.


Earlier Life

Knowles volunteered for the U.S. Army in 1962, joining the 82nd Airborne Division, and later served his country 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 a mountain named to honor POW/MIAs.

He earned a degree in economics from Yale University in 1968. There, he was a fraternity brother of George W. Bush, who graduated the same year and was also a member of Delta Kappa Epsilon. 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 in Anchorage.

An avid fly fisherman, cross country skier, and (retired) marathon runner, Tony Knowles and his wife Susan currently reside in Anchorage. They have three children, Devon, Luke, and Sara, all in college and graduate school.


Preceded by:
Walter J. Hickel
Governor of Alaska
1994–2002
Succeeded by:
Frank Murkowski

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