Alaska’s crowded campaign trail
Palin isn’t the only one running for federal office. All the activity muddies the line of succession.
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Here, it’s no small concern, with plenty of state business in need of attention: Alaska has just authorized a license with Calgary-based TransCanada Corp. for a massive natural-gas pipeline; rural residents are trying to brace for winter as heating-fuel costs skyrocket; state officials are struggling not to squander a treasury overflowing with riches created by high oil prices; and global warming impacts are so dramatic that several polar bears have been spotted in vast stretches of ice-free ocean, dozens of miles from any solid footing.
Even Governor Palin’s top aides were blindsided by her selection on Friday. At a news conference later that day, press secretary Bill McAllister and others spoke of learning about it from phone calls and e-mails arriving early in the Alaska morning from inquisitive East Coast reporters.
Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell found out at 6:40 a.m. when he was awakened by a call informing him that he needed to pick up Palin’s schedule, starting with a graduation speech. He was surprised but happy, he said. “This is one of those defining moments for Alaska when our story as a people gets told.”
If Senator McCain and Palin win, that could trigger a complicated succession scenario, including a shuffling of the governor’s cabinet and, eventually, a special election, as outlined at an Aug. 29 news conference by state Attorney General Talis Colberg. The attorney general, who in Alaska is appointed by the governor, has been designated by Palin as successor to Lieutenant Governor Parnell, in the event he cannot take the spot.
“Under a certain sequence of events, I would have my Alexander Haig moment,” Attorney General Colberg noted wryly, referring to the time in 1981 that Mr. Haig, then US secretary of State, asserted he was in control at the White House after the attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan. (Vice President George H.W. Bush was traveling.)