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Vol. 13, No. 45 Week of November 09, 2008
Providing coverage of Alaska and northern Canada's oil and gas industry

Sarah’s back. What now?

Defeated VP candidate says her role in national politics as Alaska’s governor will be non-partisan, focus on U.S. energy security

Petroleum News

Republican vice presidential nominee Gov. Sarah Palin has returned to her home state of Alaska, where she was greeted by dozens of supporters encouraging her to run for president in four years.

The crowd chanted “2012! 2012!” as Palin disembarked from her airplane at the Anchorage airport Nov. 5. Asked by reporters if she might run for president, Palin said, “We’ll see what happens then.”

Palin said she hoped to work with President-elect Barack Obama and Vice Present-elect Joe Biden on energy policy. She was returning to the state after spending the night of Nov. 4 in Phoenix, where she watched election returns with her Republican running mate, presidential contender Arizona Sen. John McCain.

McCain praised Palin as “one of the best campaigners I have ever seen, and an impressive new voice in our party for reform and the principles that have always been our greatest strength.”

In previous press reports the Alaska governor’s detractors have been quoted as saying she would have a tough time governing when she returned to the state after taking part in a politically divisive campaign, but that wasn’t the sentiment expressed by some Republicans, Democrats and political observers on Nov. 4 and 5.

Republican legislators who have backed Palin in the past said they thought she could resume her leadership style now that she is back to her old job. Her support, state Rep. Paul Seaton, R-Homer said, was built around issues, not party loyalty.

“If she takes the same course her next two years and picks issues with broad consensus, it won’t change at all,” Seaton said.

Feelings get raw in campaigns and then everyone gets back to work, said state Sen. Hollis French, D-Anchorage, who directed the Legislature’s Troopergate inquiry.

“I think she just has to be Sarah,” said state Rep. Bob Lynn, R-Anchorage.

Palin a multi-faceted gem

Palin’s chief spokesman in the governor’s office, Bill McAllister, said her aggressive role in the presidential campaign reflected the job she was given, not a change of character.

“It’s like a diamond with multiple facets,” McAllister said. He predicted a return to the nonpartisan governing approach of her first two years. McAllister noted that in late October, Alaska Democrats came forward to defend the natural gas pipeline deal they worked out with Palin against criticism in the national press.

“We took that as an encouraging sign, that Democrats came forward after all the bad blood,” McAllister said.

Hollis said he’s more worried about Palin’s future relations with the federal government.

National role will be non-partisan

In Wasilla, Alaska, to vote on Nov. 4, Palin sounded like the old governor when asked by a reporter about her future role nationally.

“You know, if there is a role in national politics it won’t be so much partisan,” Palin said. “My efforts have always been here in the state of Alaska to get everybody to unite and work together to progress this state ... it certainly would be a uniter type of role.”

Before leaving Phoenix on Nov.5, the governor told reporters that she plans to stay on the national scene by lobbying the new Obama administration on energy policy.

“I see my role as the governor of Alaska allowing our nation to become energy secure,” Palin said. “Alaska can lead this effort, and as governor I wanna be there on the forefront helping to make this nation more secure.”

“So we’ll reach out to Barack Obama and to the people who he surrounds himself with,” she said “A united effort that we certainly will be making here in order to secure our nation and allow us to be more prosperous.”

Dressed in black sweatpants and a blue sweatshirt with “Alaska Grown” written on it, Palin expressed pride in the election of the first African-American president, and in her own historic run as the first female Republican vice presidential nominee.

“It says all good things about our country, and the progress that we have made and the barriers that have come down,” she said. “I couldn’t be more proud of where we are today, you know, this minority status now being kind of propelled to the forefront, that’s healthy. … This is an historic moment. Barack Obama has been elected president,” she said. “And God bless Barack Obama and his beautiful family and the new administration coming in. It is time that we all pulled together and worked together.”

Regardless of how McCain and Palin fared in the election, some in Alaska told CBC News that the state — and its Canadian neighbor, the Yukon — could reap benefits from Palin’s time in the international limelight.

“Tourism hits are up and people are more interested in Alaska,” said Jessica Braun, publisher and editor of the Alaska Budget Report, which covers the Alaska State Legislature.

Returns to lower oil prices

Palin returns to a different financial situation in Alaska than when she left two months ago. The worldwide financial crash that, by some accounts, helped sink the McCain-Palin campaign has also wreaked havoc on next year’s state budget outlook. The budgets of Palin’s first two years were buoyed by high oil revenues, but oil plummeted from a high of $144 a barrel last summer to $67.43 on Nov. 4.

Last year’s budget was built to break even with oil at $75 a barrel, state officials have said. If the price stays down, the state will have to dip into savings and feel new pressures to cut spending.

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