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Picking Palin puts Alaska delegation in the spotlight

Making her point:  Pat Fink of Alaska wears a “Drill ANWR Now” pin Tuesday at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minn. ANWR refers to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

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Making her point: Pat Fink of Alaska wears a “Drill ANWR Now” pin Tuesday at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minn. ANWR refers to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Ken Kreitzer thinks he was on the national news Monday night.

But maybe not. He knows some journalist shoved a camera in his face as he was waiting in the security line at the convention hall, after a Mississippi delegate let it slip that Kreitzer hailed from Juneau, Alaska.

It was such an overwhelming experience; Kreitzer said the minute it was over, "I couldn't remember what I said."

Most members of the tiny Alaska delegation, 29 strong (not counting guests), got their first dose of major media this week. That's what happens when your fairly unknown governor becomes Arizona Sen. John McCain's vice presidential nominee.

"I've been interviewed 50 times. I'm not exaggerating," said Rex Shattuck, 51, a legislative chief of staff from Chugiak, Alaska.

Alaska conventiongoers, including friends and guests, number around 140, a blip among the tens of thousands of visitors to the Twin Cities this week. Many said they're weathering a double shock of Gov. Sarah Palin being named the Republican running mate, followed by the media attention that has fallen upon them.

"Usually the second question I get is about her daughter's pregnancy," said delegate Jennie Grimwood, 48, of Cordova, Alaska (population 2,300). The homemaker and mother of five has been interviewed by CNN Radio, the Associated Press and "some guy from Ireland."

Delegation leaders swear they didn't coach their group on how to handle interviews, although a few delegates like Grimwood said they were gently asked not to embarrass the state.

Like a lot of less-populated states, the delegation didn't have the resources for organized trips to the nearby Mall of the America, which the Florida delegation hit Tuesday, or the Minnesota Zoo, where the Maine delegation was.

They only have two corporate sponsors, Alaska Mining and Diving Supply (which claims to be among the world's largest snowmobile dealers) and a software company named E-Terra.

The Palin news prompted a dozen or so Alaska attendees who hadn't fully committed to the long trip to Minnesota to reconsider. And that forced Alaska state party chairman Randy Ruedrich to do some last-minute reshuffling. Ruedrich had planned to give his extra floor credentials to the Minnesota and North Dakota delegations, but he ended up needing every one.

Alaska delegates are lucky enough to share the Ramada Mall of America with the Tennessee delegation, which took Alaska under its wing. Tennessee invited Alaska to its delegation breakfasts. This morning's featured speaker is former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, who won more votes in the Alaska primary than McCain.

"We really like sharing our meals with Alaska now," said Tennessee delegate Jimmy Eldridge, a state House member from Jackson, Tenn.

On the convention floor, Alaska's delegates sit near the back, and the crush of visitors, including other delegates, friends and media, has made the area feel a bit claustrophobic.

"It's kind of hard to move back there," Shattuck said.

Picking Palin puts Alaska delegation in the spotlight 09/02/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, September 2, 2008 11:01pm]
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