Palin finds favor even with former unbelievers

Some Knowles supporters say despite loss, they're ready for change

Posted: Thursday, November 09, 2006

ANCHORAGE - Molly Stone went to bed still hoping Democrat Tony Knowles would surpass the hefty lead held by Republican Sarah Palin and make a comeback as Alaska's governor.

It wasn't even close, the Point Hope city clerk learned Wednesday. Palin, a 42-year-old "hockey mom" and former Wasilla mayor, had trounced Knowles. But then Stone decided the winner might not be so bad after all.

"I'm ready for a change, for something new," she said. "A woman's been elected for governor - and ladies can be pretty tough."

It's a mantra legions of voters have sung all along and one that other nonbelievers around the state quickly adopted.

Palin's opponents may have scoffed at her as a political lightweight who spoke in vague generalities. But voters didn't buy those barbs.

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They elected Alaska's youngest governor - and the first female in the state to hold the office.

Torrie Ruhle of Anchorage was among the early converts, although she would have been OK with Knowles, too, had he won, she said. But she's glad her official vote paid off. She likes the fact that Palin is a mother, like herself. And she's looking forward to having a leader with "more feminine touches."

Most of all, she believes Palin is willing to work with everyone, regardless of their political leanings.

"That's something we've lost as a country," Ruhle said.

Palin's win called up some mixed feelings in Dave Klein, a biology professor emeritus with the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Klein, who voted for Knowles, said he worries that Palin doesn't have enough governmental experience.

But Palin stood up to Republican heavies, including Gov. Frank Murkowski, whipping him in the GOP primary. She repeated the same feat with seasoned pros like Knowles and independent Andrew Halcro, a former Republican state legislator.

"She was obviously able to pull off an amazing win for a woman who had relatively little governmental experience," Klein said. "She's a very intelligent woman and she certainly demonstrated she was someone who would not go along with Gov. Murkowski and that demonstrates something."

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