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From the Road: Politico Reporter Gets Stopped by Wasilla Police for Being ‘Suspicious’

Driving out of Wasilla

View from the reporter’s Alaskan hotel room

We continue our From the Road series with Politico‘s Dave Catanese, who has been traveling around Alaska covering the races. No, he couldn’t see Russia from his hotel doorstep. But his trip hasn’t been uneventful – he explains why he got stopped by the Wasilla police below. He also shares why he feels so intensely rushed in both Anchorage and Roslyn. Photo credits: Catanese.

What are Alaskans like? Alaskans are much like people everywhere else I’ve traveled, except colder and claiming bragging rights that they live in such an exotic place.  Who ever gets intrigued if you tell someone you’re from Maryland?

What have you eaten? Give us an example of one  Alaskan meal: Stuffed Halibut.  At Simon & Seaforts in downtown Anchorage.  Recommended by our resident road food critic, JMart [Jonathan Martin].  Best damn fish I’ve eaten.

Can you see Russia from the front of your hotel? I cannot see Russia from my hotel, but I did trek north 40 miles or so to see if I could see Russia from Sarah Palin‘s house in Wasilla.  Unfortunately I just ended up getting pulled over for suspicious activity at a Fred Myer grocery store.  I was trying to help file our Daily 10 list, ranking the most competitive Senate races in the country, when the battery on my laptop died.  After purchasing a chai tea latte at the Starbucks inside, I plugged my laptop into an open outlet where they store the shopping carts to send my piece.  A man approached and asked who I was and what I was doing.  He didn’t buy my explanation and I had run out of business cards.  So he proceeded to follow me out of the store and call Wasilla police.  They pulled me over driving out of town and said the man thought I was “suspicious” and trying to siphon money out of the ATM.  The policeman couldn’t have been nicer, said he believed me, and let me go.  Thanks, but no thanks, Wasilla.

More after the jump…

What have the campaign staffs been like that you’re covering? I’m covering the quirky 3-way Senate race here.  Most the campaigns are nice.  But I’d rather have a campaign flak be helpful than nice.  Joe Miller and Scott McAdams camps have been very helpful.  There’s a bit more a delay hearing back from Team Murkowski.

What have you learned on the trail? On the road, you’re supposed to get a better idea of how a race is going to turn out.  But I learned in Delaware that while it’s always valuable to be on the ground, sometimes you meet so many people it complicates the picture or media narrative that’s been cooked up in DC.  No one I met in Delaware told me Christine O’Donnell could beat Mike Castle.  And she did.  Up here, I’m getting conflicting signals about whether Lisa Murkowski is really the frontrunner as a write-in candidate.

What has surprised you? I haven’t been to “the bush” which is what they call the rural area, but I guess I’m surprised at how much Anchorage is like every other American mid-sized city.  Hotels, bars, strip malls with chains on the outskirts.  A Nordstrom downtown.  Haven’t even spotted an Eskimo.  We are all Alaskans.

What else? I’m a little surprised by the daylight factor.  It doesn’t get light out until between 9-10 am here, which I’ve always heard.  But it’s not that it’s dark, just more gloomy.  Like the sun is really, really far away and trying to stretch over the mountain to give you a light.  It’s cold, but not bone-chilling cold.   Mid 30s during the day.

What has annoyed you? The 4-hour east coast time zone difference makes deadlines rough.  Because when it’s 5:30 here and editors are salivating for your story, it’s only 1:30 in Alaska.  So I feel like I’m always behind, rushing and trying to catch up.  But then again, that’s how I feel at POLITICO even when I’m at my desk in Rosslyn.

Most amusing moment so far: See #3.  Can’t beat my story from Wasilla.

Who is the best, most intriguing person you’ve met on the trail? Dave Dittman.  Longtime Alaska pollster who is predicting Murkowski to win the thing handily.  He’s got a lot riding on the line here.  Runner up: This guy at a local bar who dressed up as Joe Miller for his Halloween costume.  He totally nailed it.  All about the beard.

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