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.