WASILLA, Alaska — Before Tuesday’s election, the News sat down with Verne Rupright, the mayor of the Alaskan town where the Republican vice-presidential nominee, Gov. Sarah Palin, formerly served as mayor.
QHow have people reacted to Palin’s vice presidential nomination?
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AOut here in our end of the state, very well. Doing a mayor’s campaign in this town, you go door to door, and that’s how you have to begin. Sarah did the same thing every mayor I’ve ever known has. She banged on a lot of doors around here.
One of the first questions I got from almost everyone was: Do you support Sarah? Of course. I’ve known her for many years. I don’t know what the polls are saying — probably in the Palmer and Wasilla area, it’ll be a strong 80 percent or better, easily. She’s very well known and she’s popular.
QWhat did she do as mayor that made everybody like her so much?
ASarah has a very dynamic personality, she’s an accomplished basketball player, she’s an accomplished musician, she’s an accomplished mom. She’s as meat and potatoes as everybody else, she shops in the local stores — everybody knows her, she grew up here. Her dad was a high school teacher and her mom worked over at the school. She’s very approachable, she’s an open and engaging type of person. What you see with Sarah Palin is what you get. Simple as that, she’s versatile, she’s intelligent. She never ceases to amaze people. She went from mayor, then ran for lieutenant governor, lost, and then ran for governor and became the governor. And then bang, now she’s the VP nominee. It’s phenomenal.
QWould you prefer Sarah Palin as governor or vice president?
AEither way, Alaska wins. If she becomes the vice president, that can’t do anything but good for this state. If she comes home, heck, we get her as our governor. In her short time as governor, she managed to get a few things through, especially with the energy development companies. Alaska had never gotten its share whereas other states and foreign countries have always gotten a bigger bite of the natural resources from development. She saw to it that we got a better bite of it than we’ve been getting.
QIs there any support for Obama? Democratic Senate nominee Mark Begich is popular around here…
AMark Begich is popular because he’s “one of us.” He was born and raised here, he’s the son of Congressman Nick Begich, who died in that air crash and went missing in 1972 with Hale Boggs, who was speaker of the house — pretty sensational stuff. And Mark, I think he got interested in law as a teenager in high school and he’s been on the track ever since. Some people don’t like him, some don’t find him trustworthy. Either way I think he has the state’s interests at heart.
The reason he has a lot of support is that down here in the Matsu, up until 15 or 16 years ago, we had a lot of the Blue Dog Democrats. There was a sea-change in the early ’90s that came with Newt Gingrich and the Republican revolution. But now in light of the corruption scandals in the state legislature, one of our guys has been removed and is in jail.
Recently in running for mayor, as a Republican, I saw support from independent, moderate Republicans and the old blue dog Democrats. Moderate republicans think like blue dog Democrats.
Up until the ’90s, in Alaska, you couldn’t tell what party they were in without looking at the letter after their name. They just all worked together. This party division, that’s never good in a small state. This place is like a huge town — everybody knows everybody.
QWhy are you a Republican?
AI was serving overseas when Dick Nixon won the second time and he promised to get us the heck out of Vietnam. I was a young guy and he also promised me a pay raise. By the time he was re-elected, the war was ending and I was coming home. I was making $327 a month, $103 more than I would have been making. My family were New England Republicans — Lincoln Republicans — and for many years I was an independent voter. Even when I was very young in Massachusetts, I didn’t vote for the party. You have to look at the individual.