By Rachel D’oro
The Associated Press
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Alaska’s Black leaders say they are not surprised to see Gov. Sarah Palin at the center of the controversy over injecting the race issue into the presidential campaign.
Palin, Republican John McCain’s running mate, has repeatedly insisted that Democratic candidate Barack Obama’s former preacher, the inflammatory Rev. Jeremiah Wright, is a legitimate issue even though McCain himself has said it is out of bounds.
“She has no sensitivity to minorities,” said the Rev. Alonzo Patterson, a Baptist minister and president of the Alaska Black Leadership Conference. “She’s really inciting a lot of African Americans to get out and vote.”
Since taking office in December 2006, Palin has had a sometimes tense relationship with Black leaders, who say they have been ignored in their efforts to get more minorities hired in her administration.
This week, in the final debate of the campaign, Obama himself noted the hateful tone of some of the McCain-Palin crowds, singling out Palin herself for not doing enough to ease the friction.
Among Palin’s 417 appointments or reappointments to boards and commissions since taking office in December 2006, 240 have voluntarily identified their ethnicity. Eight are black, 49 Alaska Native, six Asian or Pacific Islander and one is Hispanic.
The Palin administration says her appointments and chief advisers reflect the state’s diversity. For example, her communications director, Bill McAllister, is part Black.
McAllister, who was hired in July, said he and others on the governor’s personal staff are evidence that she is committed to diversity.
“She’s just a warm human being who I think communicates on a deep level, both from a mass media perspective and just a one-on-one perspective,” McAllister said. “So it’s shocking to me that anyone would imply that she’s racist or, you know, neglectful of people of color.”
In Palin’s only face-to-face meeting with Black leaders in 21 months in office, words became terse when the issue of diversity arose, according to several who attended the March 2007 gathering in Anchorage.
Participants say Palin refused to reconsider her decision not to reappoint two Black officials — including Stewart — from her predecessor’s administration.
The implication from Palin was “you can’t tell me how to do my job,” said Anchorage businessman Mayfield Evans. ♦