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Sun, Sep 14th - 11:05AM

Sarah Palin, America's right-wing sweetheart

Sarah Palin, America's right-wing sweetheart

Twelve years before she became America's right-wing sweetheart, Sarah Palin rode another wave of "change" to power.

John McCain's Republican presidential running mate arrived as mayor already facing allegations she had introduced conservative social issues – including her anti-abortion position – into the mayoral campaign. She even questioned why the incumbent mayor's wife still used her maiden name.

As mayor, she fired administrators, gagged others and tried to move a museum out of the downtown.

She mused about banning books, was accused of being in the pocket of the National Rifle Association, dissolved a commission seeking ways to improve the city's problem with drinking and driving, and faced charges she had tried to break laws to put her supporters on council. On Day 120 of her administration, the first day such a move was allowed by law, she faced an incipient recall movement.

One by one, city officials who had backed defeated incumbent mayor John Stein felt the wrath of "Sarah Barracuda" as she began to fire department heads.

When the Wasilla newspaper accused newly minted Mayor Palin of trying to break laws to stack council with her supporters she called it "brilliant manoeuvering" on her part, before backing down.

Four months later, The Frontiersman editorialized that she thought her election was a coronation.

"Welcome to Kingdom Palin," it wrote, "the land of no accountability."

She stared down her opponents and brazened her way through her first mayoral year, an early performance that foreshadowed this week's interview with ABC's Charlie Gibson in which she fixed her steely gaze on her interlocutor and told him she "never blinked" when McCain asked her to be his running mate.

"I have never cared for Sarah's style of campaigning, but she has always had a dedicated base behind her and I find that worrisome," said Darlene Langill, who served on city council during the first year of the Palin administration. Langill, a fiscal conservative, butted heads with Palin on financial and administrative issues.

"She and her backers are borderline extreme conservatives," Langill said. "They think only their way is the right way and if you question that, you will feel the backlash... I define extremists as those who push their agenda on others."

Linda Beller, a member of the Wasilla Historical Society, also bucked Palin when she tried to move a museum from the downtown, claiming it was costing Wasilla $16.79 every time a visitor walked through the museum door.

Three days after her election as mayor she dissolved the city's Liquor Task Force and won plaudits and campaign contributions from The Wasilla Bar and The Mug Shot who were allowed to stay open later – even though drunken patrons were driving home to nearby Anchorage where bars closed earlier.

Under Palin, Wasilla was the only community in Alaska which forced rape victims to pay for their own medical exams, former Governor Tony Knowles told reporters. Knowles signed a bill outlawing the practice eight years ago as a direct response to Palin's policy.

Palin twice inquired about banning books in Wasilla, something she said she had raised only "rhetorically."

Nobody would discuss which books Palin wanted to ban.
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