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Summary Article: Palin, Sarah from Encyclopedia of Politics of the American West

Sarah Palin (1964–) was Alaska's first female governor and also the youngest person ever elected governor in the state. She became a national political figure in 2008 when Republican John McCain chose her to be his vice presidential running mate. Palin's relative lack of national political experience made her choice controversial, and she has remained a divisive political figure. Many political observers thought she might run for president in 2012, but in October 2011, she announced she would not seek that office.

Palin was born in 1964 in Idaho. Her family relocated to Alaska later that year. As a child, she lived in Skagway, Eagle River, and Wasilla. She attended Wasilla High School and was part of the 1982 state of Alaska championship basketball team. Palin attended five colleges as an undergraduate, eventually graduating from the University of Idaho with a degree in journalism in 1987. She then returned to Alaska and worked as a sports reporter for an Anchorage television station. Palin's political career began in 1992 with a seat on the Wasilla city council. Four years later, she won the city's mayoral race. She served six years in office as mayor and implemented a series of infrastructure improvements funded by a sales tax increase.

Palin's statewide political profile was enhanced in 2002 when she ran for the office of lieutenant governor. Although her run was unsuccessful, Palin elevated her status within the party, and Gov. Frank Murkowski appointed her to the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. Palin resigned from the commission after encountering resistance to her investigation of Randy Ruedrich, the state Republican Party chair and a fellow commissioner; Ruedrich later admitted to ethics violations. In 2004, Palin further distanced herself from the Republican Party when she joined Democratic lawmakers in their call for an investigation of the Alaska attorney general, who had close ties to Murkowski. This hurt Murkowski politically, and Palin challenged him for the nomination for governor in August 2006. Palin won 51 percent of the votes in a three-way primary race before moving on to a comfortable victory in the general election three months later.

After taking office, Palin raised taxes on oil companies’ revenue and crafted a deal with a Canadian firm to build a natural gas pipeline. In July 2008, an investigation was opened into whether Palin had tried to use her office to get her sister's ex-husband fired from his job as a state trooper. An inquiry by an investigator hired by the Alaska legislature determined that she had breached the ethics act by pressing to have the trooper dismissed. But a second investigation by an independent investigator hired by the state personnel board later cleared her.

In August 2008, John McCain chose Palin to be his running mate in that year's presidential election. The McCain-Palin pairing subsequently lost the general election to the Democratic ticket; however, Palin established herself as a popular figure in national Republican Party politics. On July 26, 2009, Palin resigned her post as governor of Alaska. The following year, she became a contributor to Fox News Channel. Palin has garnered further attention as an unofficial spokesperson for the Te a Party movement. In February 2010, she delivered the keynote address at the first National Te a Party Convention. Joe Miller, a Te a Party–backed candidate, was endorsed by Palin over Lisa Murkowski in Alaska's Senate race. This revealed a rift between Palin and Murkowski that would garner much media attention (Sonmez 2010). Miller eventually fell to a write-in campaign by Murkowski. In 2010–2011, Palin appeared in the reality television series Sarah Palin's Alaska, which focused on her family and their outdoor adventures.

See also Alaska; Presidential Election, 2008; Republican Party; Tea Party Movement

Further Readings
  • Crowley, Stephen. “Sarah Palin.” New York Times, September 1, 2011.
  • National Governors Association. “Alaska Governor Sarah Palin.” http://www.nga.org/cms/home/governors/past-governors-bios/page_alaska/col2-content/main-content-list/title_palin_sarah.html (accessed November 28, 2012).
  • Sonmez, Felicia. “Lisa Murkowski vs. Sarah Palin, and the Search for Other Political Family Feuds.” Washington Post, August 25, 2010.
  • Ryan Madden
    Copyright © 2013 CQ Press

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