HOUGHTON - John McCain's surprising pick of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin for his vice-presidential candidate has generated a flurry of excitement among party members, Republican candidates and officials said Friday night at the Republicans' Lincoln Day dinner in Houghton.
State Rep. Tom Casperson, who is running against Bart Stupak in the U.S. House race, called Palin a "fantastic" pick. He said Palin has credentials as a Washington outsider, and is confident in her beliefs.
"I've never seen anything like this, to be honest with you," he said. "I think we're getting more and more excited about nominating John McCain."
Daily Mining Gazette/Garrett Neese
John Larson, right, state House candidate, talks with Chassell Township Schools Superintendent Mike Gaunt at the Lincoln Day Dinner Friday.
State Rep. candidate John Larson said Palin brings a "commonality of experience" to the ticket.
"She can relate to all Americans," he said. "She's a mother, been involved in education, been active in her community. Rather than just complain, she's gotten involved tried to have a positive influence, and make a difference. I think that's someone everyone in the U.S. can relate to."
Palin, a social conservative with a reputation for reform, is the first woman to be nominated as a Republican vice-presidential candidate.
Geraldine Ferraro was on Walter Mondale's unsuccessful Democratic ticket in 1984.
Laura Toy, a former state senator from Livonia and a district co-chair for the state's McCain grassroots leadership team, said the selection energized the party.
"I think she's a well-rounded individual," she said. "She's been a wife, a mother, a public official, a leader. I think she's got the background and the determination to make positive changes ... everybody that's texted or called me, they're very excited about the pick."
Palin was elected governor in 2006. Her previous executive experience was as mayor of the small town of Wasilla. She then served as ethics commissioner for the state's Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, where she clashed with fellow Republican officials before resigning in protest over the party's poor ethics performance.
In her first term as governor, she has helped push through a steep tax increase on oil companies.
However, she may face ethics concerns of her own. Palin is involved in an ongoing state investigation into the firing of Alaska's public safety commissioner, Walt Monegan. Monegan says the firing was the result of his refusal to fire a state trooper formerly married to Palin's sister.
Palin's office was revealed to have played a role in the dismissal, though she denies personal involvement. The investigation's findings are due to be released shortly before the November election.
Palin, who opposes abortion, elected to go forward this year with the birth of her son, who has Down syndrome. Another son in the military is heading to Iraq in the fall.
Even before the vice-presidential pick, Republicans said, excitement was building about this year's election.
"We'll just bring fresh ideas to the table, and have a lot to offer," said Keith Almli, who is running for Baraga County Commissioner in District 5. "It's just a matter of people getting out there and getting a look at the candidates instead of voting straight Democratic."
If elected, Almli said, he would try to end health insurance for county commissioners.
"If our constituents don't have health care, county commissioners shouldn't have health care," he said.
Casperson said events like the Lincoln Day dinner both help raise money for the campaign and inspire people to put their effort towards electing Republican candidates.
"I'm looking forward to that help and making McCain the next president," he said. "We're going to change the face of Washington."
Garrett Neese can be reached at email@example.com