Alaska’s ‘first dude’ appeals to snowmobile riders in mailer

Astride a flying snowmobile, Alaska’s ‘”first dude,” Todd Palin, makes an appeal to voters who worry about restrictions on riding the beasts — called “snow machines” by serious riders — in a mailer distributed by the Maine state chapter of the Republican Party. “Could this be the last winter to ride in our national parks?” asks the flyer featuring the four-time winner of Alaska’s grueling Iron Dog Snowmobile Championship.

The flyer, which landed in the mailboxes of Maine voters this week, sets “Obama’s extreme environmental policies” against John McCain and Sarah Palin’s “practical standards” of environmental protection. “Snowmobilers will have a strong voice in the White House,” it promises.

Mailer sent to snowmobile enthusiasts in Maine, from Politico's Jonathan Martin
Mailer sent to snowmobile enthusiasts in Maine, from Politico

The direct-mail piece quotes a Sierra Club statement to instill fear in the hearts of snowmobilers:

“In the end, the point that snowmobiles are loud and obnoxious and polluting seems obvious to everyone save perhaps the person actually astraddle the beast. … They just don’t have any business in our national parks.”

Palin has raced the 2,000-mile Iron Dog race since 1993, winning the race in 1995, 2000, 2002 and 2007. Palin and his longtime Iron Dog racing partner, Scott Davis, finished in fourth place this year after a series of mishaps left the team limping across the finish line. Roughly 400 miles from the finish line and traveling 50 miles per hour, Palin hit a steel drum hidden in the snow and went flying 70 feet, breaking an arm. After Palin’s machine later developed engine trouble, Davis had to tow Palin and his damaged machine across the finish line. Here’s how The Fairbanks News Miner summed up Palin’s performance:

“Definitely if I didn’t hit that drum we would have been in real good position,” (Palin) said.

But that’s life on the Iron Dog trail, Todd Palin said.

“It’s a mine field out there,” he said. “You never know what’s going to get you.”

The crash that broke her husband’s arm was unfortunate but it doesn’t change Gov. Palin’s attitude toward the Iron Dog, she said. If her husband wants to race snow machines at 100 mph across the frozen Alaska wilderness, that’s his option, the governor said.

“These are big boys; they make their own decisions,” she said of her husband and other Iron Dog racers. “They’re hard-core Alaskans doing hard-core adventures. I totally support him, and I totally support the race. I love it.”

And Gov. Palin couldn’t be prouder of her husband.

“Going 400 miles with a broken arm, that’s impressive,” she said.

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