Challengers say Parnell blurred roles of his office, campaign

Posted: Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Two Republican candidates for governor who attended a recent Republican party gubernatorial debate are criticizing Gov. Sean Parnell for having a member of his executive staff represent him at a campaign function.

Candidates Ralph Samuels and Bill Walker appeared before the Fairbanks Republican Women's forum Sunday, with Parnell participating by videotape. The Associated Press reported that Gene Therriault, formerly a Senator from North Pole, "spoke on behalf of Parnell at the debate."

Walker and Samuels issued a joint press release Tuesday criticizing Parnell for "blurring the lines between official and campaign functions."

Therriault did not return a call to his office in Fairbanks, but Sharon Leighow, spokeswoman for Parnell, said Therriault was not working for the state when he appeared at the event.

"Gene Therriault attended the Sunday event as a private citizen," she said.

Samuels, though, said Parnell was using a "Rose Garden strategy of campaigning in his official capacity."

Parnell's challengers said that state employees such as Therriault shouldn't be campaigning.

"There is no excuse for permitting official staff to participate, except that this is part of a planned and organized effort by this governor to use his official offices and his official staff to promote his re-election," Walker and Samuels said.

Rep. Beth Kerttula, D-Juneau, said it is appropriate for state employees to participate in political activities if it's done on their own time.

"You've got to be incredibly careful, you've got to be walking a fine line," she said.

Therriault resigned his seat in the Alaska Senate in September to take a newly created position in Parnell's administration as senior policy advisor for in-state energy. He had served in the Legislature since 1992.

• Contact Reporter Pat Forgey at 523-2250 or patrick.forgey@juneauempire.com.



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