By Tim Gaynor
SCOTTSDALE (Reuters) - Residents in this sprawling neighborhood of horse properties in far north Scottsdale welcome Sarah Palin as a potential neighbor, although they are mixed about the news media on her trail.
"I'm very happy that the house finally has someone living in it. it's been empty for a while, and it's nice to have a neighbor," said Monica Rahman, the owner of a busy stable across a dirt road from the manse the former Alaska governor is reported to have bought.
A company acting for an unnamed cash buyer ponied up $1.7 million for the sprawling 5-bedroom horse property in this saguaro-studded neighborhood northwest of Phoenix on May 13, and sources close to the deal have told some news outlets like the Wall Street Journal that Palin is the buyer.
The 2008 Republican vice presidential candidate's possible purchase of a home in the Lower 48 has stoked speculation she may shortly announce as a contender for her party's nomination to run against President Barack Obama in 2012.
For days, Rahman says, the formerly quiet neighborhood has been buzzed by clattering news helicopters, while an influx of reporters has boosted traffic up and down the previously quiet roads, some of them unpaved and used as riding trails.
"The horses get spooked. It's dangerous," she said, her exasperation at the media clearly straining a natural courtesy.
"I'd much rather have our neighborhood as calm as it was," she added.
The reported sale comes less than six months after Palin's single-parent daughter, Bristol, bought a house in Maricopa, a sleepy dormitory town in the desert about a 45 minute drive south of Phoenix.
Fresh from riding horses, local trainer Maggie Lang said she hoped the younger Palins might stop by the local riding camp and learn to saddle up.
"We're hoping her kids take riding lessons ... and hang out with the horses," she said.
Palin has ratcheted up speculation she might run for president with news of the release next month of an authorized feature-length film about her life, and of a campaign-style bus tour of the East Coast that kicks off Sunday in Washington.
Arizona not only is a more convenient base than Alaska geographically for campaigning in the Lower 48 states, it should be politically friendly territory for Tea Party movement favorite Palin.
Its conservative and Republican roots stretch back at least to its long-time U.S. senator, the late Barry Goldwater, who was an unsuccessful Republican presidential nominee in 1964, to current Senator John McCain, who tapped Palin as his running mate for his losing effort against Obama in 2008.
Its Republican governor, Jan Brewer, has won a high profile of her own with support for policies aimed at discouraging illegal immigration from next-door Mexico.
While the intense media scrutiny of this quiet, sun-baked neighborhood has some of Palin's potential neighbors on edge, others felt less harried by the attention -- at least so far.
"I think it's kind of exciting," said Larry Hischer, standing outside his training stables in a broad-brimmed cowboy hat, a block away from the gated home most locals accept is now Palin's property.
"There's been a little bit of increased traffic, but nothing out of control."
That may change, though, if Palin were to announce a run for president next year, and turn the currently vacant, 8,000-square-foot ranch home into her campaign headquarters.
"We'll just have to wait and see," he said.
(Reporting by Tim Gaynor; Editing by Jerry Norton)