Palin resigns as Alaska governor
She cites ethics probes, concerns about family
WASHINGTON – Sarah Palin, the Republican Alaska governor who captivated the nation with a combative brand of folksy politics, announced her resignation Friday in characteristic fashion: She stood on her back lawn in Wasilla, speaking into a single microphone, accompanied by friends and neighbors in baseball hats and polo shirts.
The announcement that she will step down by the end of July, with 18 months left in her first term, stunned the political establishment, providing an endpoint to this chapter of her career and fueling speculation about whether her future will include a run for the presidency.
Palin offered few clues about her ambitions but said she arrived at her decision in part to protect her family, which has faced withering criticism and occasional mockery, and to escape ethics probes that have drained her family’s finances and hampered her ability to govern. She said leaving office is in the best interest of the state and will allow her to more effectively advocate for issues of importance to her, including energy independence and national security.
“I love my job and I love Alaska, and it hurts to make this choice, but I’m doing what’s best for them,” Palin said.
Palin, 45, said that, after deciding not to run for re-election as governor, she realized she did not want to finish out her term merely for the sake of doing so.
“As I thought about this announcement that I would not seek re-election, I thought about how much fun other governors have as lame ducks: They maybe travel around their state, travel to other states, maybe take their overseas international trade missions,” she said.
“I’m not going to put Alaskans through that,” she continued. “I promised efficiencies and effectiveness. That’s not how I’m wired. I’m not wired to operate under the same old politics as usual.”
She stood at a makeshift lectern surrounded by the family that accompanied her along her improbable arcs: from obscure small-town mayor to Sen. John McCain’s running mate; from mother of five to tabloid sensation; and from making a much-noticed speech at the 2008 Republican National Convention to delivering the circuitous resignation speech Friday at her waterfront home.
Eleven minutes into an 18-minute speech that covered the history of Alaska and her dedication to the state, Palin said she will relinquish the governorship to Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell, a Republican.
“All I can ask is that you trust me with this decision and know that it is no more politics as usual,” she said.
Palin, who has been seen as a 2012 presidential contender, said she had tired of “superficial, wasteful political blood sport.” She did not specify what she will do next.
Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele said later in a statement that Palin is “an important and galvanizing voice” in the GOP and will help the party’s gubernatorial candidates this fall in Virginia and New Jersey.
Nick Ayers, executive director of the Republican Governors Association, said Palin plans to expand her role in the national party. “Part of her decision is she wants to spend more time campaigning for candidates,” Ayers told Fox News.
He added that some lawmakers and activists in Alaska have been doing “everything they can to stymie her progress” and that Palin determined she could no longer “make significant change in the state.”
Alaska has spent almost $300,000 investigating ethics complaints against Palin and her staff, including her firing of a public safety commissioner who believed he was terminated over his refusal to dismiss a state trooper involved in a messy divorce with the governor’s sister.
Palin said she and her husband, Todd, have spent $500,000 “just to set the record straight.”
She has been the subject of 15 ethics probes, 13 of which have been resolved by the state Personnel Board with no findings of wrongdoing. The other two are pending.
One of the resolved complaints led to Palin’s agreement to reimburse the state $8,100 for costs associated with trips she took with her children.
Recent Alaska polls put Palin’s approval rating in the low to mid-50s, a far cry from her high of about 90 percent.
The governor has remained in the news lately, and rarely for political reasons. Her last months have included a spat with David Letterman over jokes she considered inappropriate, a critical profile in Vanity Fair this week that fueled a public squabble among McCain’s former campaign aides about Palin, questions about her appearance at a Republican fundraiser and coverage of her daughter’s breakup with her ex-fiancé, Levi Johnston.
Using a sports analogy, the former high school basketball star once nicknamed “Sarah Barracuda” said: “A good point guard, here’s what she does. She drives through a full-court press, protecting the ball, keeping her head up because she needs to keep her eye on the basket, and she knows exactly when to pass the ball so the team can win. That’s what I’m doing. I’m passing the ball.”
Palin spokeswoman Meg Stapleton rejected the notion that the governor was better positioning herself for a national bid. “She is not focused on 2012,” Stapleton said.
Republican officials in Alaska said they had been talking with Palin and her advisers about whether she would run for re-election in 2010 but had no idea she was considering stepping down before her term was finished.
Palin said her children encouraged her to leave office, in part because they were upset at seeing their little brother, 14-month-old Trig, who has Down syndrome, “mocked and ridiculed by some pretty mean-spirited adults.”
“I polled the most important people in my life, my kids, where the count was unanimous,” she said.
“Well, in response to asking, ‘Hey, you want me to make a positive difference and fight for all our children’s future from outside the governor’s office?’ It was four yeses and one ‘Hell, yeah!’ And the ‘Hell, yeah’ sealed it.”