Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s camp is dismissing criticism over her decision to leave the state in the last week of the legislative session as a “politically charged shot in the dark.”
After passing up numerous other speaking opportunities, the Republican governor is leaving Alaska with only hours remaining in the legislative session to attend the Vanderburgh County Right to Life dinner on Thursday in Evansville, Ind.
At a news conference Monday, Alaska Democratic Party Chairwoman Patti Higgins blasted Palin for “putting her national political ambitions ahead of the needs of Alaska.”
“We need a full-time governor who is thinking about our issues all the time, who is working and negotiating with the legislators and getting the job done we need done,” Higgins added. “Where is Sarah Palin? She is going to be halfway across the country. She’s at a right to life fundraiser and another event.”
But Palin’s chief of staff Mike Nizich said in a statement that the governor’s absence will not affect the outcome of the session.
“We view the legislative session as a very serious state issue. This isn’t politics for us; this is Alaska’s future,” Nizich said. “Had this group done its homework, they would have realized that Gov. Palin has had numerous meetings with lawmakers this session and has been in constant communication with them.”
The fight over Alaska’s stimulus funds is the lone major unresolved issue in the Alaska Legislature. Palin has voiced a desire to reject much of the funds, but state legislative leaders on both sides have said they will seek all federal funds.
Despite the fate of that money potentially hanging in the balance, Nizich said that “legislators rarely want governors around stirring things up” during the last week of the session.
“We did not anticipate that the governor’s political opponents would want their hands held in the final hours of the session,” he added.