When I was covering politics in Lubbock in the late ‘90s, there was a woman named Mikel Ward who was the leader of a conservative anti-tax group that was always at odds with everything the city tried to do. Ward could always be found at every City Council meeting and even ran for mayor one year.
Understand that Lubbock is a very conservative city almost entirely dominated by Republicans. The person that Ward ran against that year was a woman named Windy Sitton who was a prominent Republican and held a fundraiser at her home for (and attended by) Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison).
Ward was a hardline conservative who supported Pat Buchanan in 2000, not unlike Palin (who flirted with support for Buchanan before ultimately backing Steve Forbes). At the time, Ward was about 10 years older than Palin is now. So with that taken into consideration, you can even see a physical resemblance between them.
But whereas Palin was able to break into mainstream politics, Ward remained marginalized on the fringes. Her biggest success was in leading the opposition to an economic development sales tax initiative in 1998 that was going to fund a new sports and entertainment arena. The city eventually got its arena anyway with the strong support of Texas Tech University.
Ward’s group, known as SPARTAN, could always be depended on to oppose any and all tax initiatives, which is why they were often referred to as the CAVE people (Citizens Against Virtually Everything).
The defeat of the sales tax initiative was a blow to the city’s leadership and made a lot of powerful enemies for Ward. That is probably a big reason why her mayoral candidacy had so much trouble. But I could easily see someone like Ward winning election in a town smaller than Lubbock (Wasilla, pop. 6,000 compared to Lubbock, pop. 200,000).
Perhaps the biggest difference between Ward and Palin is that Ward stayed more true to her ultra-conservative roots, whereas Palin did not hesitate to push for an economic development sales tax when she was mayor of her town. But somehow this record of supporting tax increases seems to have been overlooked by the Republicans who would no doubt lash out at a Democrat who did the exact same thing.