Mat-Su Republicans narrow down list for Kohring replacements

Retired superintendent and legislative staffer among candidates

Posted: Monday, July 16, 2007

WASILLA - Republicans in the Matanuska-Susitna Valley have passed a short list of three finalists to replace Rep. Vic Kohring on to Gov. Sarah Palin.

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Kohring, R-Wasilla, faces federal bribery and extortion charges and plans to leave office this week. He maintains he is innocent.

The three people recommended by local Republicans to fill out the remaining year of Kohring's term are:

• Darroll Hargraves, a retired school district superintendent and former director of the Alaska Council of School Administrators. Hargraves also was a lobbyist for the council.

• Wes Keller, a legislative staff member for Sen. Fred Dyson, R-Eagle River.

• Colleen Sullivan-Leonard, a former Wasilla City Council member who works for the governor's office in the Mat-Su, and serves on the Wasilla Planning Commission.

Sullivan-Leonard has run for Kohring's seat before. Her husband, a former Wasilla city finance director, works for the Palin administration as a deputy commissioner in the state Commerce Department.

"They each have their individual strengths," said Steve Colligan, chairman of the party's District 14 committee.

Kohring's district includes the city of Wasilla, and is about twice the size of the city limits, Colligan said.

Colligan said Palin is not bound to the list, but the person she chooses must be a registered Republican who has lived in the district since at least June 2005. And a majority of House Republicans must confirm her pick.

Kohring's office was searched by federal agents in late August. He won re-election a little more than a month later with about 60 percent of the vote, defeating Democratic challenger Katie Hurley.

Kohring and former state lawmakers Reps. Pete Kott and Bruce Weyhrauch were indicted in May on charges relating to alleged dealings with Anchorage-based oil field services company VECO Corp.

Two VECO executives, Bill Allen and Rick Smith, have pleaded guilty to extortion and bribery related to their dealings with legislators.

Kohring, who has served for seven terms, announced last month that he would leave his position July 19 in order to concentrate on his defense.

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