Republicans in Rowan excited about choice
By Mark Wineka
To a man ó and woman ó Republicans who showed up to open their Rowan County headquarters Friday expressed strong support for John McCain’s surprising choice for a running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.
“It’s the best choice he can possibly make,” said Donna Peeler, who was already familiar with Palin through her work with the Federation of Republican Women.
Federation friends from Texas, Utah and California called Peeler on Friday morning, and she described them as “ecstatic” that Palin would be McCain’s pick for vice president.
The choice immediately energizes the party, Peeler said, and represents great timing, stealing some of the thunder from the Democratic National Convention that concluded Thursday night in Denver.
Ada Fisher, Republican candidate for the 77th House District seat, said the selection of Palin was important “with all that happened” this week at the Democratic convention. Political observers see Palin as a way for McCain to reach out to N.Y. Sen. Hillary Clinton’s supporters who aren’t sure they can go along with Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama.
Fisher said it can’t be overlooked that women make up 52 percent of the country’s electorate.
“We need qualified women, and this woman is qualified,” Fisher said.
The local Republicans, whose new headquarters is at The Plaza on the Square in Salisbury, said Palin becomes the only person on either the Democratic or Republican ticket with executive experience.
Palin, 44, was a mayor in Alaska, in addition to her two years as governor.
One of the issues for McCain, Fisher said, has been the perception that he’s leading a party of “fuddy-duddies.”
“This choice speaks to that,” Fisher said.
Fisher said McCain actually had three or four women who would have made good choices. She said others included Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Hawaiian Gov. Linda Lingle and U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas.
But with Palin as the choice, “I don’t think the party is disappointed,” Fisher said.
Party members gathered around the headquarters’ television sets to hear both McCain’s introduction of Palin and Palin’s own speech at a GOP rally in Ohio.
U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole, R-N.C., said she was delighted with the selection of Palin as the Republican nominee for vice president.
“It is a historic day and we have a great opportunity to elect our first female vice president,” Dole said.
Palin is the first woman to run on the GOP national ticket.
“Governor Palin is extremely qualified and has a wonderful reputation as a fighter and a reformer,” Dole said. “She and John McCain share a commitment to our long-held core values and roots, limited government, and a strong presence in the world as we face multiple threats to liberty and freedom.”
Several other local Republicans acknowledged that they didn’t know a lot about Palin.
Jonnette Powell, a member of the Rowan County Board of Elections, said she had heard of Palin in conversation and was excited about her.
“She will be a wonderful candidate, just as soon as people get to know her,” Powell said.
Ty Cobb Jr., running for the 12th District congressional seat, said Palin looks like a great choice.
“Obviously, she’s going to pull a lot of women voters,” he said.
Cobb said Palin might be seen as a risky decision for McCain, “but the payoff could be tremendous.”
He added that it appeared Palin was a woman of high principles and “wasn’t much of a politician” before becoming Alaskan governor ó something that Cobb said “bodes well for her.”
N.C. Rep. Fred Steen, R-Rowan, who is seeking re-election to the 76th House District, also liked the choice and said he had become aware of her earlier this spring through some articles he had read.
The mother of five, Steen noted, has a 19-year-old serving in the Army and going to Iraq and a baby with Down syndrome.
Steen said she was a good choice for business, oil exploration in Alaska and as a draw for women voters to the GOP ticket. Palin will be a breath of fresh air amid all the Washington insiders, and her strong pro-life stance will resonate with a lot of voters, Steen said.
“I think Obama wants a do-over,” N.C. Sen. Andrew Brock, R-Davie, said of the enthusiasm greeting McCain’s placement of a woman on the ticket.
Brock said McCain hit “a grand slam” with his choice and that Palin appeals to a wide variety of issues and concerns.
One of Brock’s personal favorites for vice president, he said, would have been former U.S. Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich.
Brock predicted McCain also has the chance to build a super cabinet from the people who were not chosen as a running mate.