Friday, November 16, 2007

Is There Room for Both of Them?

The first time I met Sarah Palin was at a City of Wasilla Planning Commission meeting, back in the early 1990s. I was there to take notes on how the commission received a tentative proposal for an Allvest halfway house inside the city limits. My observation at the time was that she seemed to be the only commission member who had read the prep materials for the meeting.

I've met or talked with her several times since. None have been since she was elected governor of Alaska. We've only had one contentious dialogue. That was back in 1997, after both of us had performed duties at the commencement ceremony of about a dozen home schoolers at Wasilla's Assembly of God Church. She had given the commencement address; my band had played music at the ceremony. We met as she was leaving. I introduced myself, and asked why she had continually referred to public schools as government schools, a term of disparagement often used by wingnuts. Vic Kohring always used that term, and I was concerned that then-Mayor Palin was falling under Kohring's spell. She was somewhat reassuring.

Between 1997 and 2007, Palin has matured as a politician like few in this state ever have. Many other writers and commentators have pointed out how she took on the Randy Reuderich corruption machine and beat its efforts to cut her off at the knees. Every single step of the way. She is now the most popular governor in Alaska history. She's also the most popular political figure at state level in the USA.

Today was Sarah Palin's biggest triumph yet. I watched the big oil slime machine as it geared up for the special session on oil extraction fee reform, as they predicted Palin's Waterloo. From the Voice of the Times, to the wingnut talk radio hosts, to the barrage of slick oil company ads, there was one message, whether emphatic or subliminal - you're risking your future in the hands of this Valley trash prom queen. Sarah Palin and Wally Hickel are the only governors in our state history to publicly confront big oil and win.

The person who was supposed to lead the way for big oil through the special session is also from the Valley - my State Senator, Lyda Green. Green is the head of a coalition of Democrats and Republicans in the Alaska Senate. They tried throughout the session to cubbyhole, derail, rewrite, scuttle, amend-to-death or otherwise defeat efforts from senate and house members to get our citizens their fair share of the incredible volume of wealth leaving Alaska every minute. In her efforts, Green failed utterly. As complete as Palin's triumph is, so is Green's eclipse.

I don't know Lyda as well as I do Palin. I do know that a few years back, when I was working with people trying to save the ELP programs in Valley schools, she returned all my calls and e-mails. And, she was knowledgeable on the issue I was involved in.

From time to time, as my band played at summertime patriotic events and parades, she has come up to talk to me. I appreciate that, Senator Green. And in terms of funding for our public schools here, she has been the only local legislator since the 1994 Revolution who sometimes - as opposed to NEVER - listened.

But Green's coalition's total failure to deliver for big oil this session will hurt her credibility. I'll be surprised if there aren't some interesting meetings about to start going down on senate reorganization.

If I were a Democrat, seeking to take Lyda out in 2008, the first person I'd approach right now for campaign tips, help, address lists and so on would be the most popular governor in the country. Lyda won't have a serious primary challenge, but if the Dems get it together, Lyda is toast.


Ishmael said...

Well, my senator, Gary Stevens, the Majority Leader, was right at Lyda's side, and there are a lot of people (well, the ones who pay attention) who are upset with him about this.

He told the Kodiak Chamber of Commerce luncheon a couple months ago that "Alaskans should be careful not to be too greedy" regarding PPT.

He is fully invested in the old system, and it makes me wonder if there won't be some challenges to him come election time. Perhaps from here, which is very moderate, or from Homer, which is considerably more liberal.

But a liberal won't beat him -- it'd take another moderate. (Remember, the Homer area, for all its celebrated liberalism, kept sending Gail Phillips to Juneau.)

I'm going to be turning these comments into a post on my blog... thanks for getting me thinking!


Philip Munger said...


the term "moderate" has been made ineffective by Palin's advent. I think voters will be looking for ways to broaden the economy and provide less weird health care options - simplicity. A candidate should attack these issues in ways that aren't moderate..

Ishmael said...

Interesting thoughts on the word....

Tell me more about weird health care options....

Unfortunately, I'm not sure there's a way to broaden the economy, if by that you mean diversify. Fishing and tourism and especially timber pale compared to oil and gas. What we need is a gas pipeline to tidewater in Cook Inlet (sorry Valdez and Canada) and put up a half dozen new LNG and GTL plants in Nikiski and put Alaskans to work adding value to the raw feed stock.

Perhaps attracting other industry to the state is an option, but we'd need cheaper electricity to do that. So I think the Alaskan Politician should push to make our state the leader in alternative energy generation. Wind, more hydro dams and emerging wave energy technology should be aggressively developed.

I'm not even opposed to the Galena nuclear plant... There are plenty of villages that could benefit from that.

This renewed emphasis on burning wood in the villages is a non-starter for anything but the smallest of scales.

Hmmm.... I've strayed from responding to "moderate." ....

Philip Munger said...


I'm trying to wrap my mind around a paper Wally Hickel edited for UAF back in 1972 on geothermal power. I'm going to write about it in a new post this morning...

Anonymous said...

Did you attend Wasilla Assembly of God Church with Sarah Palin?