Former Rep. Moses leaves behind legacy in SW Alaska

Jim Paulin | Dutch Harbor Fisherman

Former Southwest Alaska state representative Carl Moses died April 30 in Sand Point at the age of 84. State flags were lowered in his memory on May 2.

"A true gentleman, Rep. Moses will be remembered for his focus on economic development for the Aleutian region along with his gentle spirit," Gov. Sean Parnell said.

In Unalaska, his hometown for many years, the Carl E. Moses Boat Harbor is named in honor of the legislator who obtained much of the project's funding.

In his second stretch in the Legislature, Moses easily won reelection term after two-year term, until 2006 when he called heads and lost in a tied election settled by a coin toss. His challenger questioned his determination to oppose the controversial Pebble mine.

The fear of the proposed copper and gold mine's impact on Bristol Bay salmon led to a political upset in the Democratic primary election for Alaska House District 37 in 2006. Bryce Edgmon of Dillingham defeated Moses, the incumbent state representative since 1992.

Edgmon, who worked for Moses as a legislative aide in the 1990s, said he only ran to oppose the "gargantuan" mine, not out of any strong desire to oust his old boss.

"I would not have been in the race were it not for the Pebble mine issue," Edgmon said in 2006.

Edgmon said most Bristol Bay residents are "very fearful of the consequences of an open pit mine" in the headwaters of the world's largest sockeye salmon fishery, at the proposed Pebble mine some 20 miles north of Lake Iliamna.

Edgmon went on to defeat Republican Ron Bowers of Dillingham in the November general election.

Former Lt. Gov. Loren Leman said just before the coin was tossed into the air at Anchorage's Z.J. Loussac Public Library auditorium that the tied contest reinforced his standard civics lesson message to Alaska's schoolchildren.

"Today's event demonstrates how important one vote is," Leman said. The primary contest had remained undecided since the August election, with the outcome seesawing back and forth, until the tie was finally broken as specified by state law. Moses called heads but tails it was when the specially minted coin landed on the pelt of a sea otter stretched out on the floor.

"I think it was a poor way to settle it, not fair to the public," said Moses, who would have preferred another primary contest at the ballot box. Moses said he was considering running as a write-in candidate in the general election as suggested by unnamed "various supporters."

Moses supporter Frank Kelty in Unalaska said a stronger hometown voter turnout could have made the difference. Kelty said ballot stickers with preprinted candidates' names were banned with the introduction of computerized voter machines but noted that the good news for a write-in candidate was that Moses is an easy name to spell.

Ultimately, Moses did not run as a write-in, and retired from politics, although he remained in the retail business in his new hometown. Local residents were delighted with a hardware store in Sand Point, local leader Alvin Osterback said at the time, adding that if they needed a faucet or other hardware, they no longer had to wait for it to arrive from Anchorage.

Moses owned the Unalaska hotel, Carl's Bayview Inn and a grocery and hardware store, Carl's Trading LLC, which he operated along with his wife, Laresa. The businesses closed when he sold the property to adjacent Alyeska Seafoods.

Moses served 22 years in the House, with a break in service.

In 1992 he returned, winning the seat formerly held by George Jacko of Pedro Bay, after defeating another Unalaska resident, Dennis Robinson, in the primary election.

Moses was born on Sanak Island in what is now the Aleutians East Borough, worked as a commercial salmon fisherman, served on the board of the Aleut Corp., and was known for his enjoyment of the game of poker.

This story first appeared in The Bristol Bay Times/Dutch Harbor Fisherman and is republished here with permission.

Bristol Bay Times/Dutch Harbor Fisherman