If Senator McCain and Palin win, that could trigger a complicated succession scenario, including a shuffling of the governor’s cabinet and, eventually, a special election, as outlined at an Aug. 29 news conference by state Attorney General Talis Colberg. The attorney general, who in Alaska is appointed by the governor, has been designated by Palin as successor to Lieutenant Governor Parnell, in the event he cannot take the spot.
“Under a certain sequence of events, I would have my Alexander Haig moment,” Attorney General Colberg noted wryly, referring to the time in 1981 that Mr. Haig, then US secretary of State, asserted he was in control at the White House after the attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan. (Vice President George H.W. Bush was traveling.)
Parnell, who would normally succeed Palin, is vying to become Alaska’s sole US House member. Results of the Aug. 26 primary pitting Parnell against incumbent Rep. Don Young (R) are unclear. The latest unofficial results show Mr. Young leading by 151 votes, but the state Division of Elections still has thousands of ballots to count before determining which Republican will face Democrat Ethan Berkowitz, a former state legislator, in the general election.
State government will continue normal operations, and Palin is in touch by telephone and electronically, Mr. McAllister said Friday. “This administration is fully functioning,” he said.
Even if Palin returns to her post in Alaska, there is confusion right now, others say.
“In the short term, this puts Alaska in limbo,” says Gail Phillips, a Republican and former speaker of the state House. Uncertainty about who is actually running the state will do little to assure business investors, she says. “I would imagine that TransCanada is scratching their head right now and shaking their head.”