Valley voters reject Kohring, alcohol tax

Zaz Hollander
Zaz Hollander

WASILLA -- Wasilla voters on Tuesday quashed Vic Kohring's bid for city council -- and with it, the disgraced lawmaker's bid to return to public office in the wake of his 2011 felony corruption conviction.

In a borough-wide ballot measure, a 5 percent alcohol tax for the Mat-Su Borough was also going down in defeat, according to partial election results still coming in late Tuesday night.

The borough and its cities, like many municipalities around Alaska, held local elections Tuesday. Polls closed at 8 p.m. All election results are unofficial until certified later this month.

Kohring, a seven-term Republican legislator snared in a federal corruption scandal in 2007, hoped to defeat incumbent Brandon Wall, a 36-year-old fiscally conservative facilities control systems manager first appointed to the council in 2012 to replace recalled council member Steve Menard.

Wasilla residents didn't oblige.

According to unofficial results Tueday night, Wall was leading Kohring by roughly two to one, with 68 percent of the 838 votes cast to Kohring's 31.6 percent.

"I don't vote for felons," geologist and environmental consultant Ron Michelson said as he and wife Marilyn left the polling place at Wasilla Senior Center early Tuesday afternoon. "We know nothing but good things about Wall."

The race proved to be a media magnet, with the 55-year-old Kohring seeking redemption from a flawed federal corruption probe. Kohring served 12 months of a 3 1/2-year prison sentence, his 2007 jury conviction tossed over prosecutorial misconduct. He entered a guilty plea in 2011 to one count of felony extortion-conspiracy and admitted to taking $1,000 from former VECO chief Bill Allen.

Kohring, known for his dogged campaigns, said he knocked on 2,954 doors as of Monday at 2 p.m. He campaigned entirely by bicycle to show his dedication to the job and prove the "Hardworking" credo on his campaign signs.

Still, as Election Day neared, observers -- and some voters -- wondered what it would mean for Wasilla's reputation to elect a felon to city council.

"I don't care what a bunch of outsiders think," Kohring said Tuesday as he waved at passing motorists on the Parks Highway about an hour before polls closed. "This is our town. I'm very proud of this town. Hopefully we'll make the critics look foolish because of the successes we'll achieve."

Wall, a father of four children ages 16 to 2, said Kohring's entry into the race forced him to focus more on name recognition than the issues.

"This election isn't necessarily a reflection on the job I've done the last year and a half," he said on Tuesday, also waving at cars along the Parks, not far from Kohring. "It's whether or not Vic Kohring deserves a second chance."

Voters all across the Valley, meanwhile, defeated a 5 percent alcohol tax, according to unofficial borough-wide results Tuesday night.

Brian McIntosh, voting at the Palmer Depot downtown, said he opposed the proposition.

"We already have one of the highest alcohol taxes," McIntosh said, referring to the statewide tax.

The alcohol tax proposition generated a $100,000 get-the-vote-out campaign. Supporters at the Mat-Su Health Foundation spent $50,000 on a PR campaign that emphasized the emergency-services funding aspect of the tax. The Foundation also touted the potential benefits of the tax in reducing alcohol-related deaths and underage drinking.

The Alaska Cabaret, Hotel, Restaurant & Retailer's Association spent $50,000 campaign papering Valley liquor stores and bars with flyers and posters opposing the tax. CHARR questioned Foundation claims that the tax would reduce underage drinking and mortality and pointed out that increased consumption followed increases in Alaska's alcohol tax.

A borough-wide $16.2 million bond package for school access roads was passing easily, according to the unofficial results.

A Wasilla 1 percent sales tax to fund a new library, however, was too close to call.

Mat-Su Assembly incumbent Noel Woods, in Palmer, was losing to challenger Matthew Beck, a veterinary hospital co-owner.

The Assembly race between Jim Sykes and Doug Glenn was too close to call late Tuesday.

In Palmer, Mayor DeLena Johnson narrowly held off challenger Linda Combs, a city council member and wife of former mayor John Combs, according to unofficial results.

Two Mat-Su School board incumbents were losing to challengers Tuesday night. David Cheezem was losing to Ray Michaelson and Neal Lacy was losing, by a closer martin, to Donna Dearman.

Reach Zaz Hollander at or 257-4317.