Sarah Louise Heath Palin (born February 11, 1964) is the current governor of the U.S. state of Alaska, and is the presumptive Republican vice presidential nominee in the 2008 United States presidential election.
11th Governor of Alaska
|Assumed office |
December 4, 2006
|Preceded by||Frank Murkowski|
Chairperson, Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission
|In office |
2003 – 2004
|Preceded by||Camille Oechsli Taylor|
|Succeeded by||John K. Norman|
|In office |
1996 – 2002
|Preceded by||John Stein|
|Succeeded by||Dianne M. Keller|
|In office |
1992 – 1996
|Born||February 11, 1964 (1964-02-11) |
Sandpoint, Idaho, United States
|Spouse||Todd Palin (since 1988)|
|Children||Track, Bristol, Willow, Piper, Trig|
|Alma mater||University of Idaho|
In 2006, Palin was sworn in as the governor of Alaska, becoming the first woman and youngest person to hold the office. She is the first governor born after Alaska achieved statehood. She defeated incumbent Republican governor Frank Murkowski in the Republican primary and former Democratic governor Tony Knowles in the general election. Palin was elected to two terms on the Wasilla, Alaska, city council from 1992 to 1996, then won two terms as mayor of Wasilla from 1996 to 2002. After an unsuccessful campaign for lieutenant governor of Alaska in 2002, she chaired the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission from 2003 to 2004 while also serving as Ethics Supervisor of the commission.
On August 29, 2008, Republican presidential candidate John McCain announced he had chosen Palin as his running mate. If selected by her party, she would be only the second woman to run for vice president on a major-party ticket (after Democrat Geraldine Ferraro in 1984), and the first Republican to do so.
Early life and education
Palin was born Sarah Louise Heath in Sandpoint, Idaho, the daughter of Sarah Heath (née Sheeran), a school secretary, and Charles R. Heath, a science teacher and track coach. She is of English, Irish, and German ancestry. Her family moved to Alaska when she was an infant. She and her father would sometimes wake at 3 a.m. to hunt moose before school, and the family regularly ran 5K and 10K races.
Palin attended Wasilla High School in Wasilla, Alaska, where she was the head of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes chapter at the school and the point guard and captain of the school's basketball team. She helped the team win the Alaska small-school basketball championship in 1982, hitting a critical free throw in the last seconds of the game, despite having an ankle stress fracture at the time. She earned the nickname "Sarah Barracuda" because of her intense play and was the leader of team prayer before games.
In 1984, Palin won the Miss Wasilla beauty contest, then finished second in the Miss Alaska pageant, at which she won a college scholarship. In the Wasilla pageant, she played the flute and won "Miss Congeniality".
Palin attended Hawaii Pacific College in Hilo, Hawaii, in 1982 for a semester, where she majored in Business Administration, and transferred in 1983 to North Idaho College. In 1987, Palin received a Bachelor of Science degree in communications-journalism from the University of Idaho, where she also minored in political science. Palin briefly worked in broadcasting as a sports reporter for local Anchorage television stations and with her husband in commercial fishing.
Early political career
City council and mayorship
Palin began her political career in 1992 when running for Wasilla city council, supporting a controversial new sales tax and advocating "a safer, more progressive Wasilla". She won and served two terms on the council from 1992 to 1996.
In 1996, she challenged and defeated incumbent mayor John Stein, criticizing wasteful spending and high taxes. In January 1997, Palin fired the Wasilla police chief, citing a failure to support her administration. In response, a group of 60 residents calling themselves Concerned Citizens for Wasilla discussed attempting a recall campaign against Palin, but decided against it. The fired police chief later sued Palin on the grounds that he was fired because he supported the campaign of Palin's opponent, but his suit was dismissed when the judge ruled that Palin had the right under state law to fire city employees, even for political reasons.
Palin followed through on campaign promises to reduce the salary of the mayor, and to reduce property taxes by 40 percent. She increased the city sales tax to pay for construction of an indoor ice rink and sports complex. At this time, state Republican leaders began grooming her for higher office. She ran for re-election as mayor against Stein in 1999, winning by an even larger margin. Palin was also elected president of the Alaska Conference of Mayors.
2002 run for Lieutenant Governor
In 2002, Palin made an unsuccessful bid for lieutenant governor, coming in second to Loren Leman in a five-way race in the Republican primary. After Frank Murkowski resigned from his long-held U.S. Senate seat in mid-term to become governor, he considered appointing Palin to his Senate seat but instead chose his daughter, Alaska state representative Lisa Murkowski.
Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commissioner
Governor Murkowski appointed Palin to the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, where she chaired the Commission from 2003 to 2004, and also served as Ethics Supervisor. She resigned in protest over what she called the "lack of ethics" of fellow Republican members.
After resigning, Palin filed formal complaints against the state Republican Party's chairman, Randy Ruedrich, and former Alaska Attorney General Gregg Renkes. She accused Ruedrich, one of her fellow commissioners, of doing work for the party on public time and working closely with a company he was supposed to be regulating. Ruedrich and Renkes both resigned and Ruedrich paid a record US$12,000 fine.
Governor of Alaska
In August, she declared that education, public safety, and transportation would be the three cornerstones of her administration. Despite spending less than her Democratic opponent, she won the gubernatorial election in November, defeating former Governor Tony Knowles 48.3 percent to 40.9 percent.
Palin became Alaska's first woman governor and, at 42, the youngest in Alaskan history. She is the first Alaskan governor born after Alaska achieved U.S. statehood and the first governor not inaugurated in Juneau. She chose to have the ceremony held in Fairbanks. She took office on December 4, 2006.
She has challenged the state Republican establishment. For example, not long after taking office, she auctioned Murkowski's state jet on eBay. She endorsed Parnell's bid to unseat the state's longtime at-large U.S. Congressman, Don Young. Palin also publicly challenged Senator Ted Stevens to come clean about the federal investigation into his financial dealings.
A poll published by Hays Research on July 28, 2008 showed Palin's approval rating at 80 percent, while another Ivan Moore poll showed it at 76 percent, a drop which the pollsters attributed to the controversial firing of Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan. A subsequent Rasmussen Reports poll from July 31, 2008 showed 35 percent of Alaskans rated her performance as excellent, 29 percent good, 22 percent fair, and 14 percent poor.
Energy and environment
Palin has strongly promoted oil and natural gas resource development in Alaska, including in the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), where such development has been the subject of a national debate. She also helped pass a tax increase on oil company profits. Palin has followed through on plans to create a new sub-cabinet group of advisers to address climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions within Alaska. However, when asked about climate change after becoming Senator McCain's presumptive running mate, she stated that it would "affect Alaska more than any other state", but she does not "attribute it to being man-made".
Shortly after taking office, Palin rescinded 35 appointments made by Murkowski in the last hours of his administration, including that of his former chief of staff James "Jim" Clark to the Alaska Natural Gas Development Authority. Clark later pleaded guilty to conspiring with a defunct oil-field-services company to channel money into Frank Murkowski's re-election campaign.
In March 2007, Palin presented the Alaska Gasline Inducement Act (AGIA) as the new legal vehicle for building a natural gas pipeline from the state's North Slope. This negated a deal by the previous governor to grant the contract to a coalition including BP (her husband's former employer). Only one legislator, Representative Ralph Samuels, voted against the measure, and in June, Palin signed it into law. On January 5, 2008, Palin announced that a Canadian company, TransCanada Corp., was the sole AGIA-compliant applicant. In August 2008, Palin signed a bill into law giving the state of Alaska authority to award TransCanada Pipelines US$500 million in seed money and a license to build and operate the US$26-billion pipeline to transport natural gas from the North Slope to the Lower 48 through Canada.
In response to high oil and gas prices, and the resulting state government budget surplus, Palin proposed giving Alaskans US$100-a-month energy debit cards. She also proposed providing grants to electrical utilities so that they would reduce customers' rates. She subsequently dropped the debit card proposal, and in its place she proposed to send Alaskans US$1,200 directly, paid for from the windfall surplus the state is getting because of the high oil prices.
In May 2008, Palin objected to the decision of Dirk Kempthorne, the Republican United States Secretary of the Interior, to list polar bears as an endangered species. She filed a lawsuit to stop the listing amid fears that it would hurt oil and gas development in the bears' habitat off Alaska's northern and northwestern coasts. She said the move to list the bears was premature and was not the appropriate management tool for their welfare.
Shortly after becoming governor, Palin canceled a contract for the construction of an 11-mile (18-kilometer) gravel road outside Juneau to a mine. This reversed a decision made in the closing days of the Murkowski Administration. She also followed through on a campaign promise to sell the Westwind II jet purchased (on a state government credit account) by the Murkowski administration. In August 2007, the jet was sold for US$2.1 million.
In June 2007, Palin signed into law a US$6.6 billion operating budget—the largest in Alaska's history. At the same time, she used her veto power to make the second-largest cuts of the construction budget in state history. The US$237 million in cuts represented over 300 local projects, and reduced the construction budget to nearly US$1.6 billion.
In 2006, Ketchikan's Gravina Island Bridge, known outside the state as the "Bridge to Nowhere", became an issue in the gubernatorial campaign. Palin initially expressed support for the bridge and ran on a "build-the-bridge" platform, but later decided to use the bridge funds for other projects. Palin directed state transportation officials to find the most "fiscally responsible" alternative for access to Ketchikan's airport. Although Alaska kept the federal money, Palin stated that Alaska should rely less on federal funding. Palin now claims that, "I told Congress, thanks but no thanks on that bridge to nowhere."
When on June 6, 2007, the Alaska Creamery Board recommended closing Matanuska Maid Dairy, an unprofitable state-owned business, Palin objected, citing concern for the impact on dairy farmers and the fact that the dairy had just received US$600,000 in state money. When Palin found out that the Board of Agriculture and Conservation appoints Creamery Board members, she replaced the entire membership of the Board of Agriculture and Conservation. The new board reversed the decision to close the dairy, but later in 2007, with Palin's support, the unprofitable business was put up for sale. There were no offers in December 2007, when the minimum bid was set at US$3.35 million, and the dairy was closed that month. In August 2008, the Anchorage plant was purchased for US$1.5 million, the new minimum bid; the purchaser plans to convert it into heated storage units.
Public Safety Commissioner dismissal
On July 11, 2008, Palin dismissed Public Safety Commissioner Walter Monegan, later asserting that he had not adequately filled state trooper vacancies, and that he “did not turn out to be a team player on budgeting issues.” She instead offered him a position as executive director of the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, which he turned down.
2008 vice-presidential campaign
On August 29, 2008, Palin was announced as presumptive Republican presidential candidate John McCain's vice-presidential running mate. Palin's selection surprised many Republican officials, several of whom had speculated about other candidates such as Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, United States Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, and former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge.
According to advisors close to the campaign quoted by the New York Times, McCain had originally wanted to select Lieberman, primarily on the advice of one of his national chairmen, Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. The New York Times further claims McCain was forced to change plans because Christian conservatives objected to Lieberman's support of abortion rights, and still wanted someone to shake up the ticket - thus turning to Palin. He called her on August 24 to discuss the possibility of having her join him on the ticket. The Washington Post and other sources quote several McCain advisors as saying Palin had been under consideration since a private meeting with McCain in a February National Governors Association meeting. Advisors state as the vetting rounds narrowed the candidate list down Palin was always one of the potential candidates, and McCain aides insisted that the backlash against Lieberman had no effect on his final choice. On August 27, Palin visited McCain's vacation home near Sedona, Arizona where she was offered the position of vice presidential candidate.
This offer was confirmed after further talks later that night in Dayton, Ohio; site of the event where McCain formally introduced Palin the next morning. Speculation began early Friday morning with reports that Palin and her family had been seen getting off a plane in Dayton. After several contradictory reports as to Palin's whereabouts (some reports said she was back in Alaska), senior advisers confirmed that Palin had in fact been selected at approximately 10 a.m. Eastern time--two and a half hours before her formal introduction.
A month previously, Palin had said:
But as for that VP talk all the time, I’ll tell you, I still can’t answer that question until somebody answers for me what is it exactly that the VP does every day? I’m used to being very productive and working real hard in an administration. We want to make sure that that VP slot would be a fruitful type of position, especially for Alaskans and for the things that we’re trying to accomplish up here for the rest of the U.S., before I can even start addressing that question.
Palin strongly supports drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), which McCain has opposed. They also disagree on her belief that global warming is not caused by human activity. On August 4, 2008, Palin put out a press release praising portions of Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama's energy plan including the call for completion of the Alaska Gas Pipeline and proposal of US$1,000 rebates for families struggling with energy costs, although she took exception with its call for a windfall profits tax on oil companies. The press release in question appears to have been removed from the governor's website, but can still be accessed through Google's cache.
In 2002, while running for lieutenant governor, Palin called herself as "pro-life as any candidate can be." She opposes abortion for rape and incest victims, supporting it only in cases where the mother's life is in danger. Palin does support contraception, and is a prominent member of Feminists for Life, which takes no position on that issue.
Palin opposes same-sex marriage and supported a non-binding referendum for a constitutional amendment to deny state health benefits to same-sex couples. Palin has stated that she supported the 1998 constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.
In a televised debate, Palin stated that she supported teaching both creationism and evolution in public schools. The next day she clarified her position, and stated that if a debate of alternaive views arose in class she would not prohibit its discussion. She added that would not push the state Board of Education to add such creation-based alternatives to the state's required curriculum.
Palin is in favor of capital punishment. She has stated that: "If the legislature passed a death penalty law, I would sign it. We have a right to know that someone who rapes and murders a child or kills an innocent person in a drive by shooting will never be able to do that again."
Palin does not support re-legalizing marijuana in Alaska, stating concerns about the message re-legalization would send to her children. She has said that she has smoked marijuana in the past, when possession was legal under Alaska state law; but did not like it. “I can’t claim a Bill Clinton and say I never inhaled”, she said.
Palin has strongly promoted oil and natural gas resource development in Alaska, including opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to drilling. She does not believe that global warming is human-made. She opposed listing of the polar bear as an endangered species, and supported a controversial predator-control program involving aerial hunting of wolves.
According to Time, Palin's foreign policy positions were not clear at the time she was picked, but she has called for an exit strategy to bring the troops home from Iraq. According to her spokeswoman, Palin has traveled to three destinations outside the United States: Ireland, and Germany and Kuwait in 2007, where she met with members of the Alaska National Guard.
Personal life and family
Palin was originally baptized as a Roman Catholic, but her parents switched to the Wasilla Assembly of God, a Pentecostal church, where she was rebaptized at age 12 or 13. When she is in the capital, she attends Juneau Christian Center, another Assemblies of God church. Her current home church in Wasilla is The Church on the Rock, an independent congregation. Although initial reports described her as the first Pentecostal ever named to a major party's presidential ticket, Palin describes herself as a non-denominational Christian. The National Catholic Reporter described her as a "post-denominational" Christian.
She married her high school boyfriend, Todd Palin, on August 29, 1988 when she was 24 years old. The Palins have two sons (Track, 19, and Trig Paxson Van, four months) and three daughters (Bristol, 17; Willow, 14; and Piper Indy, 7) [ages as of August 2008]. The family lives in Wasilla, about 45 miles (72 km) north of Anchorage.
Palin gave birth to her youngest child, Trig, on April 18, 2008, while in office as governor. Testing early in pregnancy revealed the fetus had Down syndrome. Palin said she was sad at first but they now feel blessed that God chose them. Though she announced that she was pregnant only during the start of her third trimester and one month before Trig was born, her pregnancy is reported to have surprised Alaskans, including her staff. After leaking amniotic fluid, on the day of Trig's delivery, Palin delivered a keynote address in Texas and then flew eight hours to Alaska. She and her husband drove a further 50 minutes to Mat-Su Valley Regional Medical Center, where she gave birth seven hours later. Palin returned to office quickly, just three days after giving birth to Trig. Palin's decision to have the baby has been applauded by the pro-life community.
Todd Palin works for the oil company BP and owns a commercial fishing business. He is a world champion snowmobiler, winning the 2,000-mile (3,200 km) "Iron Dog" race four times. Neither her husband nor her son Track have ever registered with a political party.
|2006 Gubernatorial Election, Alaska|
|Alaskan Independence||Don Wright||1,285||0.54||-0.4|
|Alaska Republican Gubernatorial Primary Election, 2006|
|Republican||Frank Murkowski, Incumbent||19,412||19.09||n/a|
|2002 race for Lieutenant Governor (primary)|
|1999 race for Mayor of Wasilla|