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Alaskans blown away by the early-morning Palin news

Megan Holland

Whether they thought the choice was brilliant or bad, Alaskans tended to react with surprise Friday to the news that Sen. John McCain had picked Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate.

Around Anchorage and the state, people watched 24-hour news channels, switched the dials on their radios and hit refresh on their computers to keep abreast of the national buzz.

Nearly everyone had an opinion.

Some praised Palin's ability as an effective leader, a popular governor who fought big oil and finally made progress on a gas pipeline project. Others said she doesn't have the needed experience or knowledge on national issues, particularly foreign policy and the economy.

Outside Costco in East Anchorage, Dr. Thomas Green and his wife, Irene, loaded groceries into the back of a pickup. "We are very happy with Governor Palin," said Green, who also happened to be the military doctor who examined Palin's son, Track, now 19, for his entrance into the Army last year.

"She may help sway Hillary's lady folk," he said. "And, this stuff about being inexperienced, they can't knock Sarah that way, not from the Obama campaign."

Several spaces away from him in the parking lot, Mike Bonito was getting out of a truck on his way into the store. Bonito is brother-in-law to Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich, who on Tuesday won the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate.

"It's going to be great for Alaska," he said of the Palin pick. "If she does get in there, I'm sure she's going to be pushing for a lot of issues that are really important for us Alaskans."

Mel Gibby was going into the store with his two young grandchildren. "I like her, but she doesn't have the experience to be on the national level," he said. "McCain is 72 years old with a history of cancer. You know, if she had to step in as president, what about foreign affairs? She's just not ready."

He said he used to be a Hillary Clinton supporter. When she lost the Democratic ticket to Barack Obama, then he was leaning toward McCain. Now, he says, he's just not sure. "This is a show of poor judgment," Gibby said. "I was really shocked. I thought it would be someone like (Mitt) Romney."

Adrian Blastick, who was securing her children into the car, said she likes that Palin opposes abortion and appreciates that she may strengthen those ideas in Washington. "I like her family values," said the registered Republican.

Just hours after Palin gave a speech beside McCain in Ohio, Kathy Faryniarz was walking into the New Sagaya Midtown. "He's taking a big chance putting her on the ticket. I don't think she has the depth," she said.

Although she didn't vote for Palin, she thinks she is doing a decent job for Alaska. "But I don't think she's ready for prime time."

Faryniarz was a Clinton supporter and now is an Obama supporter. She doesn't think Palin will pick up the Clinton female supporters. "I don't think hard core Democrats are going to go for that," she said. "She's nothing like Hillary. There's no way."

Outside of Anchorage, people expressed similar sentiments.

In Dillingham, near where the Palins commercially fish for salmon and where Sarah's husband, Todd, spent much of his youth, mayor Alice Ruby said, "The energy is high just because people are pleased with the attention it brings to Alaska, especially rural Alaska."

"It is so cool," gushed Merche Barbaza, an airport employee from Fairbanks. "I've always been a fan of hers. Her speech this morning was out of this world. She's so eloquent."

"It will be good for Alaska because people always have this mentality that Alaska is not part of the United States," she said. "Now Alaska is on the map."

In Barrow, Mike Shults has a Palin for Governor sign on the side of his house in Barrow. A self-described lifelong Republican, he said he watched Obama's speech Thursday evening and came away feeling he would vote for the Illinois senator regardless of the Palin presence on the McCain ticket.

He likes Obama's health plan and fears that a vote for McCain means privatized Social Security.

"I would have liked to see an Obama-Palin ticket," he said. "She's a tremendous governor. I would hate to lose her as governor."

Find Megan Holland online at adn.com/contact/mholland or call 257-4343. Reporter Erika Bolstad contributed to this story.


By MEGAN HOLLAND
mholland@adn.com