When I retired from the legislature in 1991 I got a call from Mike Carey, the editorial page editor of Alaska’s most important newspaper, the Anchorage Daily News. It was a liberal paper, and they wanted a local conservative voice. So for the next eight years I wrote a column for the ADN every other week. In some ways, it made me the most visible conservative in the state.
The next year I got a call from Tom Tierney who owned the local conservative talk show station, KENI 650. He was airing Limbaugh and other national conservatives, and wanted a local conservative host. So I was on from 4:00 to 6:00, “Fritz ’til Six”, every weekday afternoon until I left Alaska in 2000. It was fun, and I found to my amazement that I had more political influence as a talk show host than I ever did in the legislature. For instance, when opposition from the Commissioner of Public Safety was preventing passage of a concealed carry bill, I got my listeners to inundate Juneau with phone calls. The Governor got the message, overruled his Commissioner, and we got the bill.
In 2016 I was in California, trying to help the Ted Cruz campaign, and discovered that Donald Trump opposed the transfer of federal public lands to the states. I told the Cruz people to exploit this in Nevada. They didn’t get the word out enough, but they were able to win Elko County, the home of the Sagebrush Rebellion.
Alaska’s precinct caucuses were the following week, Super Tuesday, and I knew this issue would kill Trump’s chances there. The Transfer of Public Lands is a big issue up north, since the feds own 61% of the state. I did a number of things to spread the message, the most effective of which was to appear on my old radio station, KENI.
Mike Porcaro now holds my old time slot, so I called up Mike and arranged an appearance on Friday afternoon, drive time. I came out hard against Trump, an arrogant New Yorker who didn’t trust us with our own land. The caucuses were the following Tuesday. Contrary to all expectations, Cruz beat Trump in those caucuses. My appearance on the Mike Porcaro show made the difference.
Cruz won his native Texas and neighboring Oklahoma, but was swept by Trump in the rest of the country. Except for Alaska. That’s talk radio for you.
I’ll be giving Mike a call, and hope to be appearing back on KENI soon. When I’m scheduled, I’ll notify readers of this blog, and ask them to go to the KENI 650 website, log in, and listen to the show on your computer or cell phone.
KENI is now owned by iHeart radio, a chain with 850 stations. They have a sophisticated system to track who is listening on the web, and where they’re from. If enough people from out of state call, it will get their attention at KENI, and when I eventually ask to host a two hour show on Saturdays, they’ll understand it’s meant for a national audience.
If the show goes well, it can be picked up and broadcast by any of its iHeart sister stations, all over the country. Could be the start of something big.
I eventually lost my column at the Daily News. I was given no explanation, but a couple years later Mike Carey and I had lunch together, and he told me what happened. Senator Ted Stevens was visiting the editors of the Daily News, and as he was leaving the chief editor asked him if there was anything they could do for him. He said, yes, fire Pettyjohn. So they did.
Ted and I really didn’t like each other.