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Legislative staffer in hot water after allegedly stealing election signage

Ben Anderson
Aaron Jansen illustration

An incident of stolen campaign signage over the weekend in Anchorage appears to point to a legislative staffer for Alaska Rep. Pete Petersen, who had apparently gone "rogue."

Josh Traini, son of state House hopeful and current Anchorage Assemblyman Dick Traini, was hanging door placards with a group of volunteers over the weekend when he noticed something strange.

"We got all (the doors) on this street, and we went back to get another street off of that main street. As I was walking back, I noticed that all of our signs were gone,” Josh Traini said.

Usually, he said, one or two on a street might disappear, as people open their doors and collect the campaign materials, but on this street, he said, “every single one was gone.”

So he and his girlfriend began investigating and eventually caught Tabitha Williams, who Josh said had a handful of 142 Traini door hangers when they confronted her.

Josh said Williams was volunteering for Andy Josephson, his father's Democratic opponent for the newly-created Midtown district.

Williams didn't return a call Monday afternoon for this story. But Josephson did, calling Williams a "rogue volunteer" who was "barred from getting anywhere near" his campaign, after the incident.

Josephson said that he had only met Williams once, briefly, at a campaign event about a month prior. He said he didn't even know her last name.

"I'm a former prosecutor," Josephson said. "I have zero tolerance for any misconduct, and I informed her when I heard about it that she was not welcome to volunteer with me anymore."

In addition to her small role in Josephson's campaign, Williams also had a paid position on the staff of Rep. Petersen, D-Anchorage, although Petersen said Monday she'd only been with his office for about a month.

"I didn't even realize that she'd been volunteering for other campaigns," Petersen said. "She called me and was very upset, and said that she had made a mistake. I'd hired her as a temporary employee to fill a position left by someone who left on vacation."

Petersen said Williams mostly worked with scheduling issues while he's caught up between campaigning for re-election and his official legislative duties. Petersen is facing off against another incumbent House representative, Lance Pruitt, after redistricting combined their districts.

Petersen said that Williams was “in the process” of resigning her position in his office.

“Obviously, that isn’t something I condone,” Petersen said of taking the campaign materials. “I have a zero-tolerance policy with that sort of thing.”

Petersen heard about the incident when it was aired on a local talk radio program Monday morning, then, unable to reach Williams, had to wait for her to call back.

“As soon as she called me back, I could tell she was very upset,” Petersen said. “She realized that she messed up.”

Things may get worse for Williams, too. Assemblyman Traini -- whose campaign materials were taken -- said that he had filed a police report on the incident.

“I filed a complaint, and I expect the police to follow through,” he said.

The younger Traini and his girlfriend were able to recover the placards.

Contact Ben Anderson at ben(at)alaskadispatch.com