Trucker for Governor
Product hauler hanging tight in governor in Alaska’s governor race
Singin’ Sam Little, country musician and longtime truck driver, owner-operator and small fleet owner, is running for governor of Alaska this year. By now he’s been at it for several months, after announcing his candidacy in December and laying the groundwork for a grassroots run through April, when I met him in Nashville, Tenn. He was in town working on several new campaign songs and picking up a custom Prevost coach.
Little’s running as a working man, which he has been all his life, he says, and a Republican. “I met the [Tennessee] lieutenant governor [Ron Ramsey] the other night,” he said on his Nashville visit. “We hit it off — he used to be an auctioneer. He’s running for governor of Tennessee this year, and we feel like we’ll make a bond together. He wants to take Tennessee in a lot of the same places I want to take Alaska, putting people back to work.”
While he’s now logging miles all around Alaska in his campaign coach, and his three-truck fleet’s reefer trailers are adorned with “Sam Little for Governor” signage, Little comes from neither trucking nor political roots. He cut his on-road teeth playing gospel music at tent meetings around the western United States from an early age. “I met a girl in 1969 and didn’t make much money,” he says, so he went off in search of more stable work, finding it first in a sawmill, then hauling logs in the lumber industry for five years in Northern California. After a neighbor asked him to tote a load to Alaska, he made the move that would cement his future in trucking — and politics.
“I had supported Sarah Palin big-time,” says Little, going so far in 2008 even to hang McCain/Palin banners on some of his Little Country small fleet’s trailers. When she stepped down last year and he saw who he calls a career lobbyist for the oil industry in Sean Parnell taking the reins of government, Little swiftly acted on advice an old friend and longtime father figure in his life, Glen Hawkins, gave him before he died. “He told me, ‘Sam, I want you to run for governor of Alaska.’”
Little became acquainted with Hawkins when in 1975, in his 30s, he worked as a shop steward on the Alaskan oil pipeline, when he also trucked 80-foot pipe and other materials to Prudhoe Bay.
But his political roots were laid later, after the pipeline was completed and Little bought a brand-new Kenworth, in 1979. The nationwide independent trucker shutdowns of that tumultuous year held in them a discovery of a most powerful tool in bringing people together: Little’s singing voice and guitar. His original “Truckers Shutdown” song of that year, reprised during the fuel price spike of 2008, was penned at the Jubitz Travel Center, where he debuted it to a crowd of drivers. “It kind of pulled people together,” he says. “Music gets the crowd together. I’ve never been a great speaker. The guitar has always been my weapon to get things done.”
Beating a Republican incumbent in the primary, scheduled for Aug. 24, will no doubt require more than just song and dance. But Little’s gotten better, and more versatile, about getting his message out over the years. Trucking, he says, has been a big part of that: “In the trucking industry you have to stand up and speak up or they’ll walk over you. And if you’re right, you’ll stand up.”