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Making a comeback! Campaigning for the Wasilla City Council.

Vic Kohring

It's been six years since I resigned from the Alaska Legislature under extraordinary circumstances, but the timing's right to re-enter public service. After much thought, and encouragement from friends and supporters, I've decided to file for the Wasilla City Council, a position I'm well suited for. My campaign -- my first since 2006 -- is off and running. Even though I'm a little rusty at campaigning, I hope to dust off the old playbook, put in a solid effort and make a big comeback this fall.

I'm excited about the prospect of serving my community again. Many have encouraged me to run for public office, which is heartening. To heck with naysayers who hem and haw while claiming I'm not electable because of my legal history. Most recognize how the government railroaded me the same as Ted Stevens, my defense undermined by cheating prosecutors who concealed reams of crucial evidence while denying me my constitutional right to a fair and open trial.

Following the FBI raid of my legislative offices seven years ago, I was aggressively pursued by the exact same group of prosecutors who targeted Senator Ted Stevens, and, we now know, committed serious acts of misconduct. They cheated by intentionally concealing thousands of pages of evidence, much of which was crucial to my case and would have exonerated me, the same as with Stevens. That conclusion was reached following an extensive inquiry by court appointed investigator Henry Schuelke, whose 525-page report released last year revealed serious acts of prosecutor misconduct.

I eventually pled guilty to a single “conspiracy” charge in 2011, seven months after winning my appeal with the Ninth Circuit Court, to avoid a second trial. It wasn't worth fighting the Feds after five years of being bullied, threatened and bankrupting myself. Weighing most heavily in my decision to plea was my elderly parents. As their full time caregiver, I couldn't take a chance at another potential sham trial and being taken away from them at a time when they most needed me, as strong as my case was and as much as I wished to prove my case and exonerate myself. By then, I had little faith in the system that I would be treated fairly, especially since the prosecutors were determined to salvage a conviction to make up for their bunging of my case. It was the right decision and I believe most people would have done the same to protect their family.

I handled things poorly in 2006 and never should have accepted gifts from friends or asked for a modest loan to cover medical bills (which was never received). I acknowledge it was inappropriate to associate with those in the oil industry while the Legislature was in session debating and voting on a bill to encourage construction of a gas line, even as I repeatedly voted against the very bill ("PPT" / tax reform legislation) they hoped I would support. And even if it was perfectly legal to accept small gifts or seek a loan, it still was seen by some as wrong, which I regret. It was a brief lapse in judgment after maintaining high ethical standards throughout my many years in office. I paid a very steep price and it changed my life forever, but it only shows I'm human and capable of making mistakes for which I'm owning up.

Regardless of my decisions from seven years ago, it did not warrant the full force of the United States government crashing down on me, especially over $100 in Easter egg money for my stepdaughter as shown in the so-called 'iconic' video tape, the weak centerpiece of the government's case. The whole thing was blown far out of proportion by overeager federal prosecutors looking for notoriety and a chance to further individual careers. But my legal issues are in the past, so it's time to move on.

If elected to the city council, my goals will be largely the same as when I was a state representative. That is to be frugal with the public's money and focus on fully funding core essentials including public safety, schools and basic infrastructure such as roads and utilities.

The city has done a good job providing essential services while keeping costs down, something I plan to help continue. I will also work to keep taxes low and limit regulations and government controls to make it easy for small businesses to grow and the private sector to thrive. Building a strong economic base as we meet the demands of a growing Wasilla is the best way to create prosperity, new jobs and a higher standard of living for all. I pledge to work hard and dedicate myself to these goals as part of a team effort on the council.

There's a lot I can contribute from my knowledge and experience from many years in Juneau. I understand the legislative process well and have a long track record as a fiscal conservative while emphasizing the basics. I understand the budget process and how roads and other capital projects and programs are funded. During my twelve sessions at the state capitol, I chaired the House Transportation Committee and eight different House budget subcommittees including the Department of Commerce. I also served on the Finance, Health and Social Services and Budget and Audit committees.

I also served as chairman of the Wasilla Planning & Utilities Commission before the Legislature, giving me significant experience at the municipal level. In that role, the commission worked closely with the city's planning department to improve the comprehensive plan and was responsible for approving major development permits. Moreover, having lived and worked in Wasilla for 37 years gives me a good understanding of our community's needs. This has been my home for a long time and I intend to stay. It's a great little town and I have high hopes for its future.

I moved to Wasilla the same month I graduated high school, in May 1976. Then, the town had a population of less than a thousand hearty souls. A true frontier town with lots of promise. An exciting time and a quiet, friendly community where you never locked your doors. My folks purchased eight and a half acres inside the city limits in 1976 along "Airport Heights Drive," later renamed Lucille Street. From that property, my father and I developed what is now Kohring Subdivision, where I live to this day. Lucille was a two-lane dirt road, with a car passing every ten minutes. Now, it's a major thoroughfare and one of the most heavily traveled streets in the city with thousands of cars daily. Today, Wasilla bustles with nearly 10,000 people and no end in sight. It's a vibrant place bristling with enormous potential.

It would be a great honor to serve my community again. I would be humbled to be given another opportunity and intend to work hard to earn my neighbors' votes and justify their faith and trust in me. I will apply the same work ethic as before and be just as constituent-oriented as always.

I was proud as a legislator of my reputation for hard work and service to constituents which I intend to continue at the city level. I have lots of energy, fight and enthusiasm left and am not dispirited by my awful legal saga. As challenging as it was, the experience

Whether I can win another election, of course, remains to be seen. It is a major unknown as I venture out on the campaign trail. But I'm willing to stick my neck out and give it a try. If voters say no, I will respect their decision and move on. If yes, I'll obviously be delighted and be a dedicated public servant. As I campaign, I'm anxious to hear folks concerns and suggestions on how we can make Wasilla an even better place to live.

Wasilla continues to be a city of great promise with a bright future. I'm proud of our town, a place that has provided real opportunity for my family. I look forward to serving you and will give every effort in my commitment as your representative on the council.

Vic Kohring represented Wasilla in the Alaska Legislature from 1995 to 2007 and is currently a candidate for the Wasilla City Council.

The views expressed here are the writer's own and are not necessarily endorsed by Alaska Dispatch, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, e-mail commentary(at)alaskadispatch.com.