Disgraced Alaska legislator Vic Kohring thinks Wasilla voters should give him another chance and elect him to their city council.
Kohring filed Friday afternoon for a three-year term for Wasilla City Council Seat F, according to the City Clerk's office. That seat is currently held by Brandon Wall, who has filed for re-election. Friday was the last day to file for the Oct. 1 election.
In an announcement emailed to news media, Kohring addressed his felony conviction on federal corruption charges by saying "it's in the past and time to move on." But he also apologized for his "carelessness" and taking what he described as "small gifts" from "friends."
Kohring was one of six legislators charged and convicted in the corruption scandal that surfaced with FBI raids on his office and others in 2006. A jury convicted him in November 2007 of extortion, bribery and conspiracy and a federal judge sentenced him to 31/2 years in prison. He appealed and got a new trial when the Justice Department admitted withholding information from Kohring's defense -- similar misconduct that led to dismissal of charges against U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens after a jury found him guilty of disclosure violations.
Instead of going through a new trial on three felonies, Kohring pleaded guilty Oct. 21, 2011, to a single federal felony for accepting bribes and was sentenced to the time he had served in federal prison: one year, plus 18 months probation. He admitted taking $1,000 cash at a Juneau restaurant from Veco chairman Bill Allen, who was trying to lower oil production taxes in the 2006 Legislature, and to asking Allen to pay a $17,000 credit card debt.
"I believe the timing is right to re-enter public service," Kohring said in his statement, describing what he termed his attempt at a "political comeback."
That seems to be the vogue now, with comebacks attempted or achieved by former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, recently elected to Congress despite his affair with an Argentine woman whom he hid by claiming to have hiked the Appalachian Trail; former U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner running for New York mayor despite a sexting scandal; and Eliot Spitzer running for New York city comptroller despite his resignation as governor in a prostitution scandal.
"I don't hold those guys in very high regards, especially that Weiner guy -- with the latest revelations, it makes me kind of sick, frankly," Kohring said in a phone interview Friday. "As far as the other guy, Sanford, if he feels he had lot to offer his constituents, and they were willing to forgive him, well, great for him. If the same thing happens to Mr. Weiner, and Spitzer, well, good for them too."
Kohring said he doesn't put himself in the same category as those politicians, but wants to be considered aligned with Ted Stevens, "who people will look at as having been screwed by the government."
"I'm not saying I'm blameless, that I did not screw up. I certainly did -- I crossed the line ethically in getting involved with a friend," he said.
Kohring has only been qualified to run for office since April, when he was discharged from probation and became a voter again.
"I was given the signed release from the judge and I took that down to Division of Elections within an hour of receiving it in the mail, because I was so anxious to get my voter registration status restored," he said.
Despite getting some rights restored, Kohring's felony conviction still prevents him from possessing a firearm in gun-friendly Wasilla, but he doesn't see that as a political problem.
"I'm still a life member of the NRA and I've got a long history and track record of supporting their causes, was always endorsed by them," he said. "There's certainly nothing that prevents me from continuing to support the things that they would like."
Kohring said he's still the small government, low-tax conservative who Mat-Su voters elected seven times to the Alaska House.
And that's what confuses his opponent, Wall. Wasilla doesn't have districts, and Kohring could have chosen to run against another candidate, Wall said.
"Vic and I are a lot alike, we travel in a lot of the same circles," Wall said. "We're both conservatives with that Alaska libertarian zing to it." But Wall is a lot younger -- 35 to Kohring's 54 -- and he makes no secret of signing the initiative petition to legalize marijuana.
Wall, a building security contractor, moved to Wasilla in 2006 and voted for Kohring that year, despite knowing Kohring was under investigation. Asked if he regrets that decision, Wall said: "I better not comment on that." He said he doesn't want to make Kohring's past an issue in the campaign, but also described Kohring's conduct as "a big deal."
Kohring, who used to save money in Juneau by sleeping in his office, says he's struggling financially.
"I don't own anything other than clothes and books and all my legal papers," he said. "I'm just surviving on my own, eating out of the garden and catching salmon down at Chitina. I'm not complaining -- I'm eating well, I got a roof over my head, I'm surrounded with family that love me and lots of great friends, so life is going pretty good."
Kohring says he takes care of his elderly mother and her rental properties, and works part-time in light construction. His cellphone has a 270 area code because he's saving money using his sister's family phone plan in Kentucky.
Reach Richard Mauer at firstname.lastname@example.org or 257-4345.
By RICHARD MAUER