In what was the first time a presidential or vice-presidential candidate has visited Short Pump, Alaska governor Sarah Palin spoke to a crowd of approximately 8,000 area residents Saturday night at Deep Run High School. The rally, put together somewhat last minute, on Thursday, was very well orchestrated by Henrico County and other officials.
We arrived at approximately 2:30 p.m. to start posting live text and photos to the website, at which time about 15 people were in front of us in the line to enter the football stadium, where Palin spoke. The crowd was very friendly and patient, and there were lots of characters to be found, including several individuals sporting “Joe The Plumber” outfits.
One of the people decked out in plumber attire, Laurie Buchanan, had already been to several other rallies with both John McCain and Sarah Palin, including in Virginia Beach. “There’s incredible energy [at the rallies," Buchanan said about the prior events, before entering Palin's Deep Run rally. "It gets you all stoked up and excited so you'll share that [excitement] with other people.” When asked why she supports the McCain-Palin ticket, she responded, “McCain has a lot of experience. Plus, my son was in the army for 6 years. He had a tour in Kuwait and Iraq, and now he’s serving our country in Afghanistan. I feel much more comfortable with McCain. I feel secure and safe. I feel that he’s going to put our country first, and I do not feel that with Obama.”
Deep Run senior Charlotte Spriggs, a first time voter, said she likes the diverse views McCain and Palin bring. “They’re so diverse, and they bring different stuff to the table. McCain is very patriotic with his military experience, and Palin is a strong woman. I think she’s a good role model.”
Security was tight, as could be expected, when the gates opened to the masses at 6:00 p.m. Metal detectors and random searches were the norm, and Henrico Police made a barricade with their cars behind the stadium’s press box. Dozens of school buses were also used as barricades, fortifying the entire perimeter of the football field from Shady Grove Road to the Deep Run student parking lot. An airplane provided air surveillance for the duration of the event, as well as a team of Navy Seal snipers, who were visible on both the roof of the school and the concession building near the field. Many Secret Service agents also lined the area around the stage where Palin spoke.
As the evening progressed, many notable speakers took the stage. Former Virginia governor and Senatorial candidate Jim Gilmore, former Virginia Attorney General Jerry Kilgore, and Congressman Eric Cantor all made brief speeches, just to name a few.
The crowd went wild when Sarah Palin finally took the stage at approximately 10:00 p.m. Palin, standing alongside her husband Todd, emphasized the significance of the economic crisis and urged voters to vote for John McCain. “[McCain] is going to have the guts to confront the ten trillion dollar debt the government has run up,” Palin said. “We will balance the federal budget by the end of our first term. You can believe us when you make a promise like that, because we’re the only candidates in this race that prove reform.”
Palin also spoke on issues such as national security, taxes, and her position on conservative values. The entire event ended around 11:00 p.m., and traffic was moving steadily throughout the high school parking lot and the surrounding Twin Hickory area, in part due to a large, coordinated effort by Henrico Police.
Photos we took at the rally appear below. For many more photos, click here to view our event gallery. You can also view a short video of the event on the sidebar to the right of this post.
Please note: This event was covered as a service to the community, and the opinions expressed by those interviewed for this article may or may not reflect the views and/or beliefs of Downtown Short Pump staff. We welcome comments from all viewpoints below.