Palin's Nomination Stirs Hometown Fans, Detractors
Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin's speech at the GOP convention Wednesday was the occasion for parties in her hometown of Wasilla, Alaska. Residents there are proud of her, but they also are beginning to push back a little under all the national scrutiny.
Mug-Shot — the smokiest bar in Wasilla — was serving moose stew, supposedly Palin's favorite dish. On the big screens, patrons were treated to the once-in-a-lifetime sight of their former mayor running for vice president.
"Sarah did us great," said Karen Yuroz, who was celebrating around the pool tables. "She's our girl and she's our governor and now the vice president. All the way from Wasilla to Washington — that's pretty impressive."
Her friend, Rainey Robie, said the speech should put to rest any doubts about Palin's qualifications for the job.
"I think she can deal with about anything that's handed to her," Robie said. "She's about bulletproof."
Robie was mesmerized by the sight of Palin standing in St. Paul with her children, who everyone in Wasilla knows from school.
But it's not all celebration in the town. Palin's successor at City Hall, Mayor Dianne M. Keller, says the crush of media inquiries has threatened to overwhelm her staff, and she's taken measures.
"The city employees have been reminded that they are on taxpayer dollars while they're on city time," Keller said. "They're welcome to talk after hours with whoever they want and say whatever they want, but ... while they're on our clock, we expect them to do the job that they've been asked and hired to do."
Palin's surprise promotion to the national scene has increased the stakes in certain state political disputes, too, especially "Troopergate." That's what Alaskans call the allegations that Palin tried to have her sister's ex-husband fired from his job as a state trooper.
"It has become clear that the governor's office has acted improperly," said John Cyr, executive director of the Public Safety Employees Association.
Once McCain picked Palin, Cyr's organization sped up an ethics complaint it was preparing against the governor. Cyr said Palin abused the powers of her office to go after her sister's ex-husband.
"[She] may have gotten improper access to Trooper Mike Wooten's personnel file, to his worker's comp file and his private medical records," he said. "Gov. Palin has acted in such a way that it clearly violates the executive ethics act and personnel policies within the state."
Cyr's complaint was filed Wednesday afternoon, but it's just a small piece in the larger chess game between Palin and the Republican state Legislature.
Palin has been at odds with many of the veteran members of her own party, and this week, her lawyer suggested she may not cooperate with the Legislature's special investigation of Troopergate. Republican Lyda Green, the president of the state Senate who happens to represent Wasilla, said she expects there will be pressure to drop the investigation.
"I would assume that at a point in the not-too-distant future — perhaps after the convention's over — I will be approached and asked to cease or cancel the ongoings of the special investigation or wait on it or something," she said, "but it's in place."
Green said she will personally make sure the special investigation goes forward. She said she's just trying to get at the truth — and she laughs off accusations by some Alaskans that she's jealous, or that she wants to sabotage Palin.
Still, ever since Friday, Green has spent hours on the phone with reporters from around the world, repeating her judgment that Palin is not prepared to be vice president. It seems the political rivalries of a small state are now moving onto a much bigger stage.
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