Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Four Prospective Replacements Compete To Replace Resigning Alaska State Representative Vic Kohring

Special Update: Two days after posting this, the Mat-Su Frontiersman published a story revealing that three additional candidates had surfaced. Updated information posted below in green.

As of July 11th, 2007, four prospective replacements for resigning Alaska State Representative Vic Kohring have applied for consideration and have been publicly identified. This post combines and summarizes news stories from KIMO Channel 13 in Anchorage, and the Mat-Su Frontiersman.

The four respective replacements are Steve Menard, Colleen Sullivan-Leonard, Darrell Hargraves, and Wes Keller. Menard, the son of current Matanuska-Susitna Borough Mayor Curt Menard, was elected to Seat C of the Wasilla City Council for a three-year term in October 2005. He also works on Governor Sarah Palin's staff.

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. Because of her background and political philosophy, the fact that she has a hyphenated last name should not automatically imply that she's a feminist; she may simply be proud of her prominent family name. 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. However, because the selection process is expected to be so competitive, his public support of a Democrat in 2006, of little consequence otherwise, could be enough to knock him out of the picture in this case.

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.

According to the Frontiersman's July 11th story, these were the only four people who submitted applications by the July 11th deadline. Steve Colligan, the House District 14 Republican chairman and the head of the Selection Committee, says that while all four applicants appear "extremely well-qualified", the committee can only forward three names to Governor Sarah Palin for her consideration. The three names will be announced at 7 P.M. Friday (July 13th) at the Wasilla Multi-Use Sports Complex.

However, the Frontiersman published an updated report on July 13th revealing that there were a total of seven candidates aspiring to replace Kohring. The additional three were identified as Pat Marley, Wasilla business owner; Dan Kelly, a member of the Mat-Su Borough Assembly; and Greg Koskela, member of the Wasilla City Council and Wasilla Planning commission. Koskela was a member of the selection committee until he decided to enter his name, and based on his remarks cited elsewhere in this story, this appeared to be a last minute decision, since there was NO previous hint that he might be a candidate.

The committee is looking for a viable candidate willing to run for the post again in 2008 rather than just be a seat-warmer, selection committee member Greg Koskela said. So the four applicants will also be personally interviewed by party leadership.

Neither Colligan nor Koskela could say specifically what questions the candidates would be asked, although they did say contenders would be ranked by a point system. Colligan said the committee would be looking for candidates who would work to advance the party's platform, but it is not necessary for candidates to closely share Kohring's beliefs.

However, although he's stepping down on July 19th, Vic Kohring weighed in on this discussion. “People will respect you more if you follow your heart and convictions, what you truly believe, as opposed to telling people what you think they want to hear,” Kohring said. “Your word is your bond. Be truthful and follow through on your promises”. [Ed. Note: A bit "chutzpatic", considering the nature of Kohring's formal indictment.]

Kohring also hopes the incoming legislator will be “a person who truly desires to be a public servant and make the community a better place to live, instead of one seeking a title or desiring the attention that so many politicians crave.

After District 14 forwards the three names to Governor Palin, she can either choose from the list or pick a replacement of her own. In any event, Palin's appointee must be confirmed by House Republicans in a majority vote, which could happen during a potential special session on oil taxes this fall, or in January during the next regular session.

If House Republicans reject the governor's appointee, she will have another 10 days to repeat the selection process and choose a new candidate.

Analysis: Because the four candidates all appear to be so closely-matched, and the stated goal of the District 14 committee is for Kohring's replacement to advance the Republican agenda, Daroll Hargraves' previous support for Democrat Katie Hurley, which might normally be overlooked considering the subsequent scandal engulfing Vic Kohring, may be enough to make the difference. Consequently, I believe Hargraves will be rejected, and the three names advanced will be Steve Menard, Colleen Sullivan-Leonard, and Wes Keller.

Additional Note: I have to admit that had I known about the other three names at the time of the original posts, I would not have predicted Steve Menard to be one of the three finalists. Most likely I would have predicted Greg Koskela instead because of his greater political experience. Of course, I still would have been wrong.

Who will Palin then select? Too early to tell, but in her continuing effort to mend fences with the Randy Ruedrich wing of the Alaska Republican Party, she might be inclined to respect the process and pick from the three names submitted rather than select someone different.

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