Saturday, July 14, 2007

Alaska Governor Sarah Palin Can Choose Between Wes Keller, Colleen Sullivan-Leonard, And Darroll Hargraves To Replace Vic Kohring

On Friday night (July 13th, 2007), my crystal ball batted .667. The District 14 Republican committee selected Wes Keller, Colleen Sullivan Leonard, and Darroll Hargraves as the individuals from which Governor Sarah Palin can choose to replace Rep. Vic Kohring, who's resigning on July 19th. Full story from KTUU Channel 2 in Anchorage.

Left on the sideline were Wasilla City Council Member Steve Menard, his fellow City Council Member Greg Koskela, businessman Pat Marley, and Mat-Su Borough Assembly Member Dan Kelly. I originally guessed that Menard would be one of the three finalists, along with Leonard and Keller. I believed that Hargraves would be left out because he supported Kohring's Democratic opponent, Katie Hurley, in the November 2006 general election. Earlier this week, Steve Colligan had stressed that he wanted candidates who would better reflect the Republican party line.

However, a number of people, including Rep. Les Gara (D-Anchorage), have been urging Governor Palin not to ncessarily pick a replacement who will slavishly toe the party line. Likewise, Governor Palin herself expressed a similar desire. This shift clearly strengthened Hargraves' hand.

A look at the political portfolios of the four individuals tips us off to another possible reason. Steve Menard has the skinniest political portfolio of all. His political record is restricted to his current service as a Wasilla City Council member. In contrast, the three individuals selected have served in a larger and more varied assortment of capacities. Menard is also the youngest of the four. So I suggest that relative youth and comparative lack of political experience ultimately drove him to the sideline. The other three also-rans simply may have lacked sufficient name recognition or political clout.

Here are brief descriptions of the three finalists:

Colleen Sullivan-Leonard is a former Wasilla City Council Member who ran unsuccessfully against Vic Kohring for the Republican nomination for his House seat in 2004. She currently runs Governor Sarah Palin's Mat-Su office. She is the daughter of former Anchorage Mayor George Sullivan and the sister of current West Anchorage Assemblyman Dan Sullivan, who himself is considered a leading candidate to run for Mayor of Anchorage in 2009. She is a mother of five who is married to Ted Leonard, a former NCAA ski racer from Idaho who now serves as a Deputy Commissioner for Commerce.

Darroll Hargraves is a retired school superintendent who currently does consulting work for rural school districts. He served as a member of Alaska's Local Boundary Commission, which, amongst other functions, hears and rules on proposals by various jurisdictions to organize themselves into boroughs or municipalities (Skagway tried to organize itself into a borough in 2002). Working against his selection is the fact that last fall, he supported Katie Hurley, the Democratic challenger for District 14, and he was already considering a campaign to run against Kohring in 2008 when the lawmaker announced his resignation. However, Hargraves explained that his lack of support for Kohring does not mean he will show a lack of support for the Republican platform. He believes in standing by the best candidate, regardless of party affiliation. He actually considers himself more conservative than Kohring.

Wes Keller is a legislative aide to conservative Republican State Senator Fred Dyson, who is particularly noteworthy for his support of pro-family causes. Senator Dyson has fought vigorously against the promotion, protection and public subsidization of the homosexual lifestyle and has fervently defended the sanctity of pre-born human life, so it is reasonable to assume that Keller would reflect those values to some degree. As the only candidate currently a legislative staffer, Keller would appear to have the strongest technical qualifications.

Each of the three finalists discussed their prospective platforms during the Friday meeting. Hargraves stated that he will be an advocate for lower local taxes by supporting state revenue sharing with local municipalities, cities, and boroughs. He will also support private and public education and infrastructure. He will oppose legislation that limits personal liberty and freedom (hopefully, this means he will oppose REAL ID). He will propose a plan to save money for a rainy day and will ask state departments to turn in reduced versions of their yearly budgets.

Keller stressed that individual freedom and free enterprise has gotten out of the majority focus, so you proposes himself as someone who can go down to Juneau and say, "Hey, I'm gonna think for myself here and make my decisions according to the classical values of the Republican Party". He suggested that his primary advantage is that he already knows the people and the process in Juneau and will be ready to jump right in from day one.

Sullivan-Leonard prides herself on her ability to take an independent view of things and also considers herself a fiscal conservative. She spoke of four commitments; to strengthen and expand our infrastructure, for safe homes and neighborhoods, for well balanced education for our children, and to expand our economy through responsible resource development.

Governor Palin now has until August 18th (30 days after Kohring's resignation, acording to state law) to either choose one of these three nominees, or to select another replacement to fill Kohring's vacancy. Political insiders expect she will select one of the three in order to explicitly show respect for the process.

Darroll Hargraves impresses me with his explicit concern for personal liberties and freedoms.

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