He once helped run state government in Juneau, played shortstop in a local softball league, and he still votes as an Alaska resident. But these days, Pete Rouse works in the White House, two doors from his close friend, President Barack Obama.
For 25 years as the consummate Democratic insider in the U.S. Senate, Rouse played a quiet role as the backdoor connection for Alaska's all-Republican delegation to the other side of the aisle in Congress. He was the longtime chief of staff for Sen. Tom Daschle, D-S.D., the one-time Senate majority leader, and starting in 2004 Rouse took on the same job for a promising young freshman senator from Illinois.
Today, as special adviser to Obama, Rouse is in the innermost circle of the West Wing. His office sits between chief of staff Rahm Emanuel and communications director David Axelrod (for fans of "The West Wing" television series, that would be Josh Lyman's office).
"It's only been four years here, this trip from freshman senator," the 62-year-old Rouse said in an telephone interview earlier this month , breaking from his usual low-profile to talk about his Alaska ties. "It has been an interesting ride. I feel pretty invested in it."
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His Alaska roots run deeper than those of almost anyone reading these words. His mother, the daughter of Japanese immigrants, grew up in Anchorage starting in World War I, when it was a railroad construction town. His cousin was the longtime municipal attorney for the City of Palmer.
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