Re-election for regents fraught with difficulty

Stacy Jo

In a startling turn, two regents stumbled over roadblocks on their quest for re-election to the University’s top governing board.
On Monday, state legislators did not endorse current Chairman William Hogan II for re-election to the Board of Regents at the 3rd District Congressional Caucus. Approval instead went to Richard Clarke of Plymouth.
But Tuesday a larger group of legislators reversed their position and endorsed Hogan.
Regent Julie Bleyhl also sought re-election for her second district seat, but was not recommended by the Regents Candidate Advisory Council, which forwards names to the Legislature.
Legislators did not nominate Bleyhl on Tuesday night, removing her from the race.
The House and Senate will elect four regents on Thursday. The regents are chosen by their congressional district, and legislators from those districts endorsed candidates Tuesday.
Only twice in recent history have non-endorsed candidates won a regents chair; but those candidates were Hogan and Bleyhl when they first ran in 1993.
At the caucus meeting on Monday, legislators asked about overlap between Hogan’s business ventures and his work with the board. They also asked about his involvement in the University’s Anti-Lympocyte Globulin scandal, questions that might have led to the lost endorsement.
In a decade-long ALG ordeal, the University’s surgical department came under federal investigation after the University uncovered researchers misused federal funds. The University was accused of mishandling research grants and profiting illegally from unapproved drug sales.
Because no other regents attended Monday’s caucuses, most learned of Hogan’s lost endorsement Tuesday morning. Unaware of the questions legislators asked Hogan, several regents said they were surprised by the selection.
“It seems to be open season on the incumbents,” said Regent William Peterson, an incumbent up for re-election for an at-large seat. No caucus was held for this position.
Peterson said after Tuesday’s joint committee meeting, he “might be part of the feast, too.” Despite other incumbents’ setbacks, Peterson said he hopes to be re-elected based on the good job he has done representing the people of the state.
Regent Robert Bergland said he never heard the allegations against Hogan before Tuesday.
“I don’t have a clue what that might be about,” Bergland said.
Bergland said Hogan never approached him about business dealings and that he didn’t notice Hogan promoting personal interests. Bergland also said Hogan only joined the board in time to help pick up the pieces from the ALG scandal.
“He was as much a part of it as anybody else, but no more,” Bergland said.
Although surprised by the news, Regent Jessica Phillips noted that some candidates have become regents without being endorsed by their district. She added that being endorsed helps a candidate, but it is not essential to be elected to the board.