Palin's Hometown Crowd Expresses Its Support for Her

By Kimberly Kindy
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, July 5, 2009

WASILLA, Alaska, July 4 -- Hundreds of Alaskans gathered in Gov. Sarah Palin's home town Saturday morning -- including her mother, father and daughter Piper -- to decorate flatbed trucks, horses and bicycles for the town's Fourth of July festival. But the chatter was about the Republican governor's abrupt decision the day before to resign from office.

The crowd was largely filled with loyal supporters, neighbors and friends who said they were reeling over the news. They were angry, they said, because they think intense media scrutiny and attacks by political rivals in both parties became too difficult for Palin and her family to bear.

"We are just sick about it. They have smeared her so. It got to be too much," said Sue Ann Roesing, wearing a stars-and-stripes scarf. Her husband, Hank Roesing, nodded in agreement, saying: "The attacks were mind-boggling. For people who live in Wasilla, it feels personal."

Palin's parents, Sally and Chuck Heath, stood nearby accepting hugs from dozens of friends who wore pink T-shirts that said "We [Heart] Sarah."

"People have very mixed emotions about her decision. But they support her," Sally Heath said. Asked if she thinks her daughter made the right choice by stepping down, Heath said: "I think she made the right decision. I do."

Palin's father said he was not surprised that speculation about his daughter's resignation had turned dark and that rumors were swirling on the Internet that she is facing a possible criminal investigation.

"It's new to me if that is true," Chuck Heath said when asked about the assertions. "People are always saying something."

As the parade was ending and Wasilla residents began to gather for a picnic, Palin posted a message on her Facebook page. She restated that her resignation was for personal reasons and struck back at news accounts that included people critical of her decision.

"Happy 4th of July from Alaska!" she wrote, adding: "How sad that Washington and the media will never understand; it's about country. And though it's honorable for countless others to leave their positions for a higher calling and without finishing a term, of course we know by now, for some reason a different standard applies for the decisions I make."

During the parade, Wasilla residents lined up along the three-block route and waved American flags, calling out to the Heaths and to the Palin supporters in their pink T-shirts as they walked and drove by.

But not everyone was shouting support.

Becky Stoppa acknowledged that she is in the minority in town, but said she thinks much of the negative attention Palin and her family have received has been fueled by the governor herself, and that her decision to step down was wrong.

"She feeds off the drama, creates the drama," said Stoppa, her car with an Obama bumper sticker parked in the distance.

"I think what she did was completely self-serving and selfish."

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