(WASILLA, Alaska) -- What comes to mind when you think of Alaska politics?
If one's been reading the news this week, dominating the headlines on the Alaska front is the alleged feud between GOP Senate candidate Joe Miller and Sarah Palin's husband Todd.
Then there's the mayor's race in Wasilla, a town of about 7,000 people that was first brought to national attention by Palin, and has been kept in the news by Levi Johnston, the out-of-wedlock father of her grandson.
Johnston, 20, announced in August his intention to run for mayor of Wasilla. His campaign is to be chronicled in a would-be reality show Johnston, who has also posed for Playgirl magazine, is still trying to sell.
"People questioned Jesus Christ, so I definitely don't care about these mere mortals questioning Levi Johnston," his manager, Tank Jones, told reporters when questioned about the seriousness of his candidacy.
In an interview with MSNBC last week, Johnston said he doesn't believe in abstinence, he doesn't read newspapers, doesn't watch TV that often, doesn't think global warming is man-made, and, well, he'll be more ready next year when asked these same questions. The mayoral election is in October, 2011.
"You're kinda getting over my head on these things here," Johnston said when Lawrence O'Donnell asked him for his views on evolution. "Next year I'll be ready."
To many watching the race from afar, it may look like something of a farce. But the people of Wasilla, where the unemployment race is just below the national average of 9.7 percent, are hoping the national spotlight will help bring attention to the issues they are facing.
Wasilla Mayor Verne Rupright, who will likely be Johnston's principal opponent next year, blames the federal government for hindering oil and gas exploration in a region that's heavily dependent on drilling.
"We need more help to get on more solid footing here, and one of the things was the oil extraction and the [Trans-Alaska pipeline], and now with the federal moratoriums and interference with it -- well, the only thing I can say is, 'Open up the purse strings man, because you won't let us do it ourselves, then where else are we going to look?'" Rupright said.
The 800-mile long Trans-Alaska pipeline, which opened in 1977, is one of the largest systems in the world. But production on the Alaska's North Slope, where the pipeline originates, has declined and is forecast to dwindle even more in the coming years.
In a state that has no income tax, a decline in oil production means far smaller revenues going into the state's coffers.
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