Schenectady County

Local GOP politicians say Alaska’s Sarah Palin will strengthen ticket

Local Republicans reacted with glee Friday over Republican presidential candidate John McCain’s sele

Local Republicans reacted with glee Friday over Republican presidential candidate John McCain’s selection of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his choice for vice president.

They hailed the selection as historic, as she is the first woman to share a Republican presidential ticket, and said that she would attract women voters and help McCain deliver on his message of change to Washington. A prominent local Democratic woman, Schenectady County Legislator Karen Johnson, was not enthusiastic, however.

Palin, 44, has been governor for less than two years. The mother of five children, she is an evangelical Christian and former beauty pageant queen. She also served as mayor of the small town of Wasilla, an Anchorage suburb, and on its City Council.

“Governor Palin will help our Republican ticket be victorious this November by working with John McCain to deliver — not just talk about — the types of real change voters have been calling for,” said state Assembly Minority Leader James Tedisco.

Tedisco, R-Schenectady, said Palin’s selection “provides a new home and another alternative” for millions of women dissatisfied with the “disrespectful manner in which Senator Obama treated Senator Hillary Clinton throughout the Democrat primary.”

Earlier in the presidential campaign, Tedisco and the great majority of his conference supported former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. He now backs McCain.

State Sen. Hugh Farley, R-Niskayuna, called Palin a spectacular choice. “She is the only one on the ticket with executive experience and her approval rating has been right through the roof,” he said.

Palin has been “a reformer and a magnificent governor,” Farley said. “She brings youth and vigor to the ticket and answers the question of women breaking the glass ceiling.”

The glass ceiling represents the symbolic barrier to the highest office in the land. Clinton used the phrase during her bid for president, saying 18 million people who supported her helped crack the ceiling.

Farley likened Palin to Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th president of the United States, a leader of the Republican Party and of the Progressive Movement, a governor of New York and a professional historian, naturalist, explorer, author and soldier.

“He was a vigorous, reformed-minded activist. And she is a reformer and no-nonsense governor,” Farley said. “She truly has a sparkling record.”

Like Tedisco, Farley supported Giuliani for president. But he said he now supports McCain and said “John McCain has gone up in my opinion. His pick for vice president was important for me and this adds an awful lot.”

Assemblyman George Amedore Jr., R-Rotterdam, an evangelical Christian himself, said Palin is the type of person America needs. “I think it is a great selection. She understands what it takes to start an economy and to meet the needs of the people. She will help him get the youth vote,” he said.

Amedore added Palin’s gender is not an issue to him. “It doesn’t concern me. It is a matter of appeal and experience. We need someone with outside experience who brings about change people want.”

Amedore, who is seeking re-election to the Assembly, is campaigning as an outsider seeking to bring change to Albany. His opponent is Democrat Mark Blanchfield, a Schenectady city councilman.

Schenectady County Legislator Joseph Suhrada, R-Rotterdam, said he was not surprised by McCain’s pick.

“I was rooting for her for the last three months,” he said. “She is a Conservative, a family woman who knows what she believes. She has taken on corruption and fought against pork and she is rock steady,” he said. “You will see a lot of independent women who know how hard it is to raise families and run a career relate to Palin.”

other voices

Schenectady County Legislator Karen Johnson, D-Schenectady, said she saw Palin on TV Friday after the announcement. Other than that, “she’s a complete unknown to me.”

But, from what she’s learned, Palin won’t be appealing to cross-over voters, including disgruntled Democrats.

“I think that this is not going to be a method of grabbing the Hillary vote,” Johnson said. “I think they’re a little more liberal than that.”

And the widow of a former governor of Alaska with roots in the Capital Region has hesitation also.

One of Palin’s predecessors in the governor’s mansion, the state’s fifth governor, Jay Hammond, has roots in the Schenectady area. He was governor from 1975 until 1982. He was born in Troy and attended high school in Scotia. Hammond died in 2005.

His widow, Bella Hammond, now 75, told The Daily Gazette by phone Friday from her home in a remote area west of Anchorage that she was surprised the holder of her husband’s old job was picked.

She said she is worried Palin’s candidate duties will take her away from her governor duties.

“She’s very bright and personable,” Bella Hammond said. “I think she is sincere in her efforts to do a good job, but I’m still disappointed that Alaska doesn’t seem to be her first priority right now.”

Bella Hammond said she sometimes visited New York’s Capital Region with her husband, seeing his relatives in Albany and Schuylerville. She said she preferred Alaska. “I’m not a big city person,” she said.

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