Levi Johnston may be done with Bristol Palin (again) but now he wants Sarah Palin’s former job: mayor of Wasilla. In interviews with Shushannah Walshe, the current mayor and Levi’s reality TV producer assess his chances.
Levi Johnston wants Sarah Palin’s old job: mayor of Wasilla. Only a few weeks ago, he was happily engaged (for the second time) to her daughter, but they announced they were going separate ways last week and now Levi is making a play for reality prime-time. He has joined on with a production company, Stone and Company Entertainment, to produce Loving Levi: The Road to the Mayor’s Office.
“I don’t watch reality shows,” Mayor Rupright said. “Reality is going to work every day and dealing with problems.”
The show hasn’t been picked up by a network yet, but that’s not the only problem: Wasilla already has a mayor, Verne Rupright. And that’s not all, he isn’t up for reelection until October 2011. Levi can’t file until the July before. That’s a long time to be shaking hands and kissing babies, but definitely enough time to perfect his stump speech.
Levi guest stars on Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-LIst.
The 59-year-old Rupright spoke to The Daily Beast about his new challenger. He said he is “almost old enough to be his (Levi’s) granddad” and has some advice for the budding politico:
“My advice would be get your high-school diploma and keep your clothes on, voters like it,” Rupright said. “That’s just some advice from a guy my age to a guy his age.”
Could it be a possible campaign slogan for the mayor, who’s been in the job since October 2008? Maybe not, because he says he hasn’t even decided whether he will run again in 2011, although Johnston will definitely not have an effect on that decision, he says.
“I don’t watch reality shows,” Rupright said. “Reality is going to work every day and dealing with problems.”
If he does decide to run for another term, the campaign may be more competitive than those laughing outside of Alaska might think. Rupright ran in a five-way race, then a runoff, and won by less than 100 votes. “Turnouts have been bad across the country. If he wins, the people will get the mayor they deserve.”
And that’s not the only reason. Although it sounds outrageous, Scott Stone, head of Stone and Company Entertainment, says political advisers are already trying to sign up to be on the Levi 2011 team.
“We've gotten several phone calls as has Levi gotten several phone calls from political consultants on both sides of the aisle who are desperate to help. When I say desperate, they are excited about helping, both Republican and Democrat,” Stone said. “They are consultants from several states including Washington, D.C."
Asked whether they might be bipartisan political consultants with a disdain for his son’s grandmother, Stone replied, “I wouldn’t be one to say because honestly it’s not my business.”
Stone is shooting the pilot in Los Angeles now and will head to Alaska “in the next couple of weeks.” He wouldn’t say if they had signed on with a network yet.
“We have gotten an awful lot of interest, but I can say unequivocally I had a lot of interest before this announcement and I continue to have even more interest once the announcement went out.”
According to Rupright, as mayor Levi would have 130 full-time staffers and govern a population of 10,000. The Anchorage suburb is growing and is on pace to best Juneau to be Alaska’s third-largest city—and Rupright says “it's like running an enterprise and you can’t run an enterprise from out of state or from your BlackBerry.”
“He’s going to have to focus on it like everybody else. We live here, he grew up here and if you run for mayor and you get elected to the job you darn well better be in the office every day doing the job,” Rupright said. “You have the problems of the city, you have the budgets of the city, you have the issues of the city and so you have to stay focused on the job. You have to be available to the public.”
However, Stone disagrees, pointing out Johnston isn’t the first politician to head to L.A.’s bright lights and celebrity-filled streets, “Levi lives up in Wasilla. He has a beautiful home up in Wasilla. It’s where his son lives. He spends most of his time up there, but he enjoys his time in Hollywood.” Stone said, “Pretty much every politician spends a little bit of time in Hollywood or New York either for fundraising purposes or drumming up support and Levi is no different. He likes it in Hollywood.”
And is Levi looking forward to representing his fellow Wasillians? Stone can’t say for sure, “I don’t have a pulse on that,” he admits.
But Rupright says it does take shoe leather to even get the job and, in his understated Alaska fashion, predicted what Johnston may find out on the Wasilla campaign trail.
“It might be interesting, the kind of opinions he may run into,” Rupright said. “I must have banged on 2,000 doors when I ran every day, put on the tennis shoes and I was walking every night and every weekend, but it takes time to do that because you have to learn every corner of the town and everybody in it.”
Stone either doesn’t have a campaign strategy laid out yet or doesn’t want to give the incumbent a heads-up because when asked what their plans for the trail would be, Stone laughed and would only say, “That all will be rolled out in the next several weeks, our plan, but suffice to say it will likely be some time next year.”
Stone says Levi, whom he describes as “a 20-year-old guy from Alaska with a lot of worldliness beyond his years,” was thinking about doing a television show for awhile and looked into several options, but Levi to City Hall is something Johnston can really sink his teeth into. Although Stone cautions it won’t be just about the campaign and that he does not know how long Johnston has been thinking about jumping into his almost-mother-in-law’s field.
“This show is not about the election process. I am a political junkie, so I would like nothing better than to do something about politics, but I know as a TV producer that what people care about are characters and story so this show will only succeed if it is about Levi and characters in his life and his story and if it’s about his political career only it will fail.” Stone admits to telling Levi, “It has to be about your life and if your life is you running for mayor that’s a great story, but it’s got to be you running for mayor because you really care about what you would do if you got the job and not about you running for mayor because you want to do it because it's fun.”
Shushannah Walshe is the co-author of Sarah From Alaska: The Sudden Rise and Brutal Education of a New Conservative Superstar. She was a reporter and producer at the Fox News Channel from August 2001 until the end of the 2008 presidential campaign.