Determined to bring the spirit of “rugged individualism” back to Washington
With the fighting spirit demonstrated by many of her fellow Alaskans, Sarah Palin has entered the national political arena ready to take on anything her opponents can come up with. An instant lightning rod for media attention, Governor Palin has risen to the occasion, holding her head high, wearing her past struggles as a well-deserved badge of courage. Regardless of your political leaning, Sarah Palin has emerged as a rising star on the global stage. (Pics)
Greeted by thunderous applause, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin presented herself to the Republican National Convention on Wednesday, and millions of Americans watching from home, as a small-town outsider ready to join John McCain’s ticket in waging “a tough fight in this election against confident opponents at a crucial hour for our country.”
“I will be honored to accept the nomination for vice president of the United States,” she said in the convention’s most anticipated speech. The 44-year-old, self-described “hockey mom” still awaits formal nomination for the second spot on the ticket.
With those words, the crowd roared — and the flashes of thousands of cameras reflected off her glasses.
It was the crowning moment of a roller-coaster week in which the first woman ever on a Republican presidential ticket has faced questions about how closely the McCain campaign scrutinized her. She also has heard a wide range of inquiries about family issues, her policy positions and her record of public service.
Palin took crowd-delighting swipes at Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama and what she called the “Washington elite.”
“The American presidency is not supposed to be a journey of ‘personal discovery.’ This world of threats and dangers is not just a community, and it doesn’t just need an organizer,” Palin said, a clear reference to Obama’s time as a community organizer in Chicago.
And to the media that had closely examined her record, she said: “Here’s a little news flash for all those reporters and commentators: I’m not going to Washington to seek their good opinion. I’m going to Washington to serve the people of this country.”
Selected by McCain last Friday, Palin addressed the convention amid questions about her qualifications and relative lack of experience.
The first-term governor had top billing at the convention on a night delegates also lined up for a noisy roll call of the states to deliver their presidential nomination to McCain.
Watching her from inside the convention hall were members of Palin’s family, including husband Todd, and their children, including 17-year-old Bristol Palin, whom the Palins disclosed earlier in the week was five months pregnant. Bristol Palin’s 18-year-old boyfriend and apparent fiance, Levi Johnston, was seated with them.
McCain shook up the presidential race by picking Palin, a little-known governor less than two years in office. Since then, a bright spotlight has been trained on the life and record of the Republican governor who has bucked the state’s political establishment.
Days after Palin made her debut on the national stage with McCain, the campaign announced her unmarried daughter’s pregnancy. Other disclosures followed, including that a private attorney is authorized to spend $95,000 of state money to defend her against accusations of abuse of power and that Palin sought pork-barrel projects for her city and state, contrary to her reformist image.
“Our family has the same ups and downs as any other … the same challenges and the same joys,” she said.
Noting that the couple’s oldest son, Track, 19, was shipping out to Iraq in eight days with the Army infantry, Palin praised McCain as “a true profile in courage, and people like that are hard to come by.”
“He’s a man who wore the uniform of this country for 22 years, and refused to break faith with those troops in Iraq who have now brought victory within sight. And as the mother of one of those troops, that is exactly the kind of man I want as commander in chief,” she said.
Largely unknown outside her home state, Palin told the convention: “I had the privilege of living most of my life in a small town. I was just your average hockey mom, and signed up for the PTA because I wanted to make my kids’ public education better,” she said, speaking of her home town of Wasilla, Alaska, with a population of about 6,500.
“When I ran for city council, I didn’t need focus groups and voter profiles because I knew those voters, and knew their families, too,” she said.
Before becoming governor, Palin served as mayor of Wasilla, she recounted, adding: “And since our opponents in this presidential election seem to look down on that experience, let me explain to them what the job involves. I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a ‘community organizer,’ except that you have actual responsibilities.”
In another barb directed at the Illinois Democrat, Palin said: “Here’s how I look at the choice Americans face in this election. In politics, there are some candidates who use change to promote their careers. And then there are those, like John McCain, who use their careers to promote change.”
Sarah Louise Heath Palin
Sarah Louise Heath Palin (pronounced /ˈpeɪlɪn/; born February 11, 1964) is the governor of Alaska and the Republican vice-presidential nominee in the 2008 United States presidential election.
Palin served 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.
In November 2006, Palin was elected the governor of Alaska, becoming the first woman and youngest person to hold the office. She defeated incumbent Republican governor Frank Murkowski in the Republican primary and former Democratic governor Tony Knowles in the general election, garnering 48.3% of the vote to 40.9% for Knowles.
On August 29, 2008, Republican presidential candidate Senator John McCain announced that he had chosen Palin as his running mate. She was nominated at the 2008 Republican National Convention in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Palin is the second woman to run for vice president on a major-party ticket and the first Republican woman to do so.
Early life and education
Palin was born Sarah Louise Heath in Sandpoint, Idaho, the third of four children of Sarah Heath (née Sheeran), a school secretary, and Charles R. Heath, a science teacher and track coach. Her family moved to Alaska when she was an infant. As a child, she would sometimes go moose hunting with her father before school, and the family regularly ran 5km and 10km 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. She earned the nickname “Sarah Barracuda” because of her intense play, and was the leader of the team prayer before games.
In 1984, Palin won the Miss Wasilla Pageant, then finished second in the Miss Alaska pageant, at which she won a college scholarship and the “Miss Congeniality” award. Palin admits to smoking marijuana as a youth, during the time Alaska had decriminalized possession, though she says she did not enjoy it.
Palin spent her first college semester at Hawaii Pacific College, transferring in 1983 to North Idaho College and then to the University of Idaho. She attended Matanuska-Susitna College in Alaska for one term, returning to the University of Idaho to complete her Bachelor of Science degree in communications-journalism, graduating in 1987.
In 1988, she worked as a sports reporter for KTUU-TV in Anchorage, Alaska. She also helped in her husband’s family commercial fishing business.
Early political career
Wasilla is a city of 7,025 that is 68 km (42 miles) north of the port of Anchorage. Palin began her political career in 1992, when she ran for a three-year term on the Wasilla city council, supporting a controversial new sales tax and advocating “a safer, more progressive Wasilla.” She won, and was re-elected to a second three-year term in 1995.
In 1996, Palin challenged and defeated incumbent John Stein for the office of mayor. In the campaign, she criticized Stein for what she called wasteful spending and high taxes, and highlighted issues such as abortion, religion and gun control. Though the position of mayor is non-partisan, the state Republican Party ran advertisements on her behalf. During her first term, the state Republican Party began grooming her for higher office.
In October 1996, she asked the Wasilla police chief, librarian, public works director, and finance director to resign, and instituted a policy requiring department heads to get her approval before talking to reporters. In January 1997, Palin notified the police chief, Irl Stambaugh, and the town librarian, Mary Ellen Emmons, that they were being fired. Palin said in a letter that she wanted a change because she believed the two did not fully support her administration. She rescinded the firing of the librarian, but not the police chief. The chief filed a lawsuit, but a court dismissed it, finding that the mayor had the right to fire city employees for nearly any reason. According to Anne Kilkenny, a Democrat who observed the City Council, Palin also brought up the idea of banning some books at one meeting, but did not follow through with the idea.
As mayor of Wasilla, Palin was in charge of the city Police Department, consisting of 25 officers, and Public Works. She was praised for cutting property taxes by 40% while improving roads and sewers and strengthening the Police Department. She also reduced the mayoral salary, reduced spending on the town museum, and opposed a bigger library. She increased the city sales tax to pay for the new Wasilla Multi-Use Sports Complex, which eventually went over budget due to an eminent domain lawsuit.
Palin ran for re-election against Stein in 1999 and was returned to office by a margin of 909 to 292 votes. Palin was also elected president of the Alaska Conference of Mayors.
During her second term as mayor, Palin hired the Anchorage-based lobbying firm of Robertson, Monagle & Eastaugh to lobby for earmarks for Wasilla. The effort was led by Steven Silver, a former chief of staff for Senator Ted Stevens, and it secured nearly $27 million in earmarked funds. The earmarks included $500,000 for a youth shelter, $1.9 million for a transportation hub, $900,000 for sewer repairs, and $15 million for a rail project linking Wasilla and the ski resort community of Girdwood. Some of the earmarks were criticized by Senator McCain.
In 2002, term limits prevented Palin from running for a third term as mayor. Her stepmother-in-law, Faye Palin, ran for the office but lost the election to Dianne Keller after Sarah Palin endorsed Keller.
Activities from 2002 to 2005
In 2002, Palin made an unsuccessful bid for lieutenant governor. She came 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 replace him in the Senate. He instead chose his daughter, Lisa Murkowski, who was then an Alaska state representative.
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. Palin resigned in January 2004 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 $12,000 fine.
From 2003 to June 2005, Palin served as one of three directors of “Ted Stevens Excellence in Public Service, Inc.,” a 527 group that was designed to serve as a political boot camp for Republican women in Alaska.
Governor of Alaska
In 2006, running on a clean-government platform, Palin defeated then-Governor Murkowski in the Republican gubernatorial primary. Her running mate was State Senator Sean Parnell. Senator Stevens made a last-moment endorsement and filmed a TV commercial together with Palin for the gubernatorial campaign.
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% to 40.9%.
Palin became Alaska’s first female 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 in Fairbanks instead. She took office on December 4, 2006, and has maintained a high approval rating throughout her term.
She sometimes broke with the state Republican establishment. For example, she endorsed Parnell’s bid to unseat the state’s longtime at-large U.S. Representative, Don Young. Palin also publicly challenged Senator Ted Stevens to come clean about the ongoing federal investigation into his financial dealings. Shortly before his July 2008 indictment, she held a joint news conference with Stevens, described by The Washington Post as being “to make clear she had not abandoned him politically.”
Energy and environment
Palin has strongly promoted oil and natural gas resource development in Alaska, including in the Arctic 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. 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 added, “I’m not one though who would 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.
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 Corporation, 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 $500 million in seed money and a license to build and operate the $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 $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 each Alaskan $1,200 from the windfall surplus resulting from high oil prices.
In 2007, Palin supported the Alaska Department of Fish and Game policy allowing Alaska state biologists to hunt wolves from helicopters as part of a predator control program intended to increase moose populations. The program was criticized by Defenders of Wildlife and predator control opponents, and prompted California State Representative George Miller to introduce a federal bill (H.R. 3663) seeking to make the practice illegal. In March 2008, a federal judge in Alaska upheld the practice of hunting wolves from the air, though limited its extent. On August 26, 2008, Alaskans voted against ending the state’s predator control program.
On January 5, 2008, the New York Times published an op-ed by Palin, presenting her view that the polar bear should not be placed on the endangered species list. In May 2008, Palin objected to the decision of Dirk Kempthorne, the Republican United States Secretary of the Interior, to list polar bears federally as an endangered species, saying this move was premature and was not the appropriate management tool for their welfare; the State of Alaska 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.
Palin also disagrees with strengthening the protection status of the beluga whales in Cook Inlet, Alaska, where oil and gas development has been proposed.
Shortly after becoming governor, Palin canceled a contract for the construction of an 11-mile (18 km) 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, against the wishes of the Legislature) by the Murkowski administration for $2.7 million in 2005. In August 2007 the jet was listed on eBay, though with no buyer found, it was later sold for $2.1 million through a private brokerage firm.
In June 2007, Palin signed into law a $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 $237 million in cuts represented over 300 local projects, and reduced the construction budget to nearly $1.6 billion.
In 2007, the Alaska Creamery Board recommended closing Matanuska Maid Dairy, an unprofitable state-owned business. Palin objected, citing concern for dairy farmers and a recent infusion of $600,000 in state money. Palin subsequently replaced the entire membership of the Board of Agriculture and Conservation. The new board reversed the decision to close the dairy. Later in 2007, the unprofitable business was put up for sale. No offers met the minimum bid of $3.35 million, and the dairy was closed. In August 2008, the Anchorage plant was purchased for $1.5 million, the new minimum bid. The purchaser plans to convert it into heated storage units.
Bridge to Nowhere
In 2006, Ketchikan‘s Gravina Island Bridge, better 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, arguing that it was essential for local prosperity. After the bridge became a political issue Congress replaced the earmark for the bridge with an infrastructure grant to Alaska to use at its discretion; Palin’s subsequent policy was to continue construction on the road originally intended to link to the bridge while exploring less-expensive transportation between Ketchikan and Gravina Island.
Palin made national news when she stopped work on the bridge. Reuters said the move was responsible for “earning her admirers from earmark critics and budget hawks from around the nation. The move also thrust her into the spotlight as a reform-minded newcomer.” In an article titled, “Bridge leads McCain to running mate Palin”, the Associated Press said canceling the bridge was “the first identifiable link connecting Palin and McCain,” soon followed by “whispers of Palin being an ideal GOP running mate”.
In 2008, when introduced as McCain’s running mate, Palin told the crowd, “I told Congress, thanks but no thanks on that bridge to nowhere” — a line that garnered big applause but upset political leaders in Ketchikan. Palin’s campaign coordinator in the city, Republican Mike Elerding, remarked, “She said ‘thanks but no thanks,’ but they kept the money.” Democratic Mayor Bob Weinstein also criticized Palin for using the very term ‘bridge to nowhere’ that she had said was insulting when she was in favor of the bridge.
Public Safety Commissioner dismissal
On July 11, 2008, Palin dismissed Public Safety Commissioner Walter Monegan, citing performance-related issues. She then offered him an alternative position as executive director of the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, which he turned down. Monegan alleged that his dismissal was retaliation for his failure to fire Palin’s former brother-in-law, Alaska State Trooper Mike Wooten, who was involved in a child custody battle with Palin’s sister, Molly McCann. He further alleged that contacts made by Palin herself, her staff, and her family had constituted inappropriate pressure to fire Wooten. Though acknowledging that her staff had contacted Monegan or his staff regarding Wooten, Palin stated that most of those calls were made without her knowledge, and reiterated that she did not fire Monegan because of Wooten.
Palin’s choice to replace Monegan, Charles M. Kopp, chief of the Kenai police department, took the position on July 11, 2008. He resigned on July 25 after it was revealed that he had received a letter of reprimand for sexual harassment in his previous position. On August 1, the Alaska Legislature hired an independent investigator to review the situation. The investigation is scheduled to be completed in October 2008. On September 1, Palin’s lawyer asked the state Legislature to drop its investigation, saying that by state law, the governor-appointed state Personnel Board had jurisdiction over ethics issues. Palin also asked that the Board review the matter as an ethics complaint.
2008 Presidential Campaign
Senator John McCain and Governor Sarah Palin take the stage at a campaign stop in Cedarburg, Wisconsin September 5, 2008.
U.S. Republican presidential nominee Senator John McCain is joined onstage by Republican vice-presidential nominee Alaska Governor Sarah Palin and his wife Cindy at a campaign rally at the airport in Colorado Springs, Colorado September 6, 2008.
U.S. Republican presidential nominee Senator John McCain and Republican vice-presidential nominee Alaska Governor Sarah Palin stand together onstage at a campaign rally in Albuquerque, New Mexico September 6, 2008.