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Originally published Tuesday, September 2, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Hometown rallies behind Palin over daughter's pregnancy

People in this south-central Alaska town rallied around their hometown politician Monday as Gov. Sarah Palin announced the pregnancy and engagement of her 17-year-old daughter, Bristol.

Seattle Times staff reporter

WASILLA, Alaska — People in this south-central Alaska town rallied around their hometown politician Monday as Gov. Sarah Palin announced the pregnancy and engagement of her 17-year-old daughter, Bristol.

"This is obviously not what she wanted, said Lyle Griggs, owner of a thrift store that sells used tires, tools and furniture. "But this happens everyday, everywhere. We all have issues in our lives."

Palin grew up here, was a star point guard on the high-school basketball team and served as mayor for six years. Residents were thrilled Friday to learn that she was tapped as Sen. John McCain's vice-presidential running mate.

"Sarah Palin U Rock Girl !!!!" read an electronic sign outside Griggs' thrift store along the highway.

There also has been strong support for Palin among the evangelical churches that the governor has attended for years. Within this community, Palin, her husband, Todd, and their five children are respected as a close-knit family with strong values.

A local pastor — reacting to Monday's news — said a teenage pregnancy is a challenge faced by many parents.

"Every child has their own personality, and you do what you can do. You point them in the right direction with God through Jesus Christ, and hope they make the right choices," said Ed Kalnins, of the Wasilla Assembly of God, which Gov. Palin attended from her teenage years through 2002.

The Palin family lives in a lakeside home near a main highway through town. A no-trespassing sign is posted at the entrance to the driveway, and a neighbor said that some family members were home Monday, as school here is already in session.

The pregnancy news broke after national and international media had descended on Wasilla to learn more about McCain's unexpected choice for his running mate. Many sought interviews with Sarah Palin's parents, Sally and Chuck Heath, who worked for decades in the local schools as they raised Sarah and three other children.

On Saturday the Heaths took a break from helping out with chores at the governor's house to head into Anchorage for a briefing with McCain campaign officials. After that briefing, the Heaths declined an interview with a reporter.

Hal Bernton 503-292-1016 or hbernton@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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