Joe Napolitan, credited with coining the term “political consultant,” died on Monday. Napolitan worked on over 100 campaigns and served on the campaign staffs of John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson. He has worked on every continent and has been a personal consultant to nine foreign heads of state. He was the founder and first president of the American Association of Political Consultants and co-founder of the International Association of Political Consultants.
Closer to home, Napolitan played an instrumental role in two statewide Alaska races. He served as the chief strategist and consultant to Mike Gravel, who won a big upset in the 1968 Democratic primary against 81-year-old incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Ernest Gruening, the popular former governor of the Alaska Territory and considered one of the fathers of statehood. A 30 minute biopic, the likes of which hadn’t been seen before in Alaska entitled “Man for Alaska,” did the trick. Gravel went on to beat Republican banker Elmer Rasmuson in the general by eight percentage points.
Later in 1982, Napolitan advised Bill Sheffield’s successful gubernatorial campaign.
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