Whether they loved or hated the idea of Sarah Palin as vice president, Juneau residents gathered all over town Wednesday night to watch their governor address the nation for the first time.
The crowd at the downtown Hangar on the Wharf hushed, and most turned toward the big-screen TV as the bartender took the rare step of turning on the audio for Palin's speech.
"I'm horrified," said Lynn Schooler, a Juneau writer who was at the Hangar. "We're in two overseas wars, and I don't think 'your average hockey mom' is the right person to be sitting in the backup seat."
But elsewhere, some residents said they were inspired, such as Cathie Roemmich, executive director of the Juneau Chamber of Commerce.
"We were whooping and hollering on the couch, because she appeals to people. It's been so long since anybody has had that kind of appeal," Roemmich said.
The appeal, she said, was that "she's an honest woman. She puts family and country and state first."
At the Hangar, Mary Hakala, an education administrator, was skeptical.
"She's definitely likable. But she doesn't have an ounce of experience for the vice presidency," she said.
"I've met her a couple times, and she was really nice," said Jess Parks, a Juneau hiking guide. "But I think she's going to set the women's movement back to the Stone Age."
Some tuned in to details of the convention coverage.
Mike Gunnoud, a Juneau resident and U.S. Customs and Border Protection agent, noted how often the camera turned to Levi Johnston, the newly announced father-to-be of Bristol Palin's child. He sensed hypocrisy, as the campaign had spent several days saying Bristol's baby was no issue for the media to cover.
"They're definitely trying to play the family angle," he said.
Shanna Galluzzo was giving extra credit to her high school history and government students who watched. She was waiting to hear what they thought of the speech, which she watched at home.
"Whether you support her or not, I think she did a fabulous job," she said.
But Kayla Harrison, student and local D.J., would have seen it anyway - although at 17, she'll be too young to vote this time around.
She said the speech persuaded her that Palin would be a good advocate for women and the mentally ill.
"My perspective on her whole campaign changed," Harrison said. "I thought she was going to totally play up Republican values. But she played up being a mother and being a person, being involved in PTA."
Was it enough to change her from her Democratic leanings?
"I can't say that I would," she said. "Go Obama."
After watching Palin talk about Alaska reforms, including selling the Murkowski jet on eBay, one Hangar bar-goer who had been watching intently walked out with a frustrated-sounding expletive.
But there and elsewhere in Juneau, others remained glued to the tube.
Ben Brown, an attorney and Juneau Republican party organizer, said he thought Palin masterfully countered the past week's claims throughout the media that she's too inexperienced - and did so with "a very effective message," not smooth rhetoric, he said.
"I wouldn't describe Sarah as eloquent," he said. "But I would describe her as articulate, convincing and uncontrived. And that is effective."
"Anyone who's seen her in this state really shouldn't be surprised," he added.
The skeptics talked back to their televisions. Palin averred to the handful of patrons of the downtown Viking Bar that the man who could do the most for America was John McCain.
"'Who I just met a week ago,'" comedian and Los Angeles resident Derrick Cameron finished for her.
Contact reporter Kate Golden at 523-2276 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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