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Gov. Sarah Palin is McCain's VP pick

August 30, 2008 9:05:00 AM PDT
Republican John McCain introduced first-term Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his vice presidential running mate Friday, a stunning selection of a little-known conservative newcomer who relishes fighting the establishment. "She's exactly who I need. She's exactly who this country needs to help me fight the same old Washington politics of 'Me first and country second,' " McCain declared as the pair stood together for the first time at a boisterous rally in Ohio just days before the opening of the party's national convention.

McCain said he made his pick after looking for a political partner "who can best help me shake up Washington and make it start working again for the people who are counting on us."

Palin thus became the first woman named to a spot on a Republican ticket. "I am honored," she said as she stood by a beaming McCain in her first few seconds in the national spotlight.

In a fast-developing presidential campaign, McCain made his selection six days after his Democratic rival Barack Obama, named Sen. Joseph Biden of delaware, as his running mate.

The contrast between the two announcements was remarkable - Obama picked an older running mate, and a man whom he said at the outset was qualified to be president.

McCain chose Palin, a generation younger than he is, and a governor less than two years, and made no such claim about her readiness to sit in the Oval Office.

Sen. Hillary Clinton released the following statement. "We should all be proud of Governor Sarah Palin's historic nomination, and I congratulate her and Senator McCain. While their policies would take America in the wrong direction, Governor Palin will add an important new voice to the debate."

The 44-year-old Republican, Alaska's first female governor, arrived at the Capitol in 2006 on an ethics reform platform after defeating two former governors in the primary and general elections. On Friday she was ready to leap to the national stage as GOP presidential candidate John McCain's surprise choice for running mate, according to two senior campaign officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because the announcement was pending.

Sen. Schumer released the following statement about the McCain pick: "After the great success of the Democratic convention, the choice of Sarah Palin is surely a Hail Mary pass. It is a real role of the dice and shows how John McCain, Karl Rove et al realize what a strong position the Obama-Biden team and Democrats in general are in in this election. Certainly the choice of Palin puts to rest any argument about inexperience on the Democratic team and while Palin is a fine person, her lack of experience makes the thought of her assuming the presidency troubling. I particularly look forward to the Biden-Palin debate in Missouri."

She already has a national reputation for bucking her party's establishment and Alaska's powerful oil industry back home.

With ethics the centerpiece of her campaign, Palin defeated incumbent Gov. Frank Murkowski, who served 22 years in the U.S.

Senate before winning the governor's seat in 2002.

Her task didn't seem any easier in the general election, but she handily beat Tony Knowles, a popular Democrat who already served two terms as governor.

During her first year in office, Palin distanced herself from the powerful old guard of the state Republican Party, even calling on Sen. Ted Stevens to explain to Alaskans why federal authorities were investigating him.

Since then, their relationship has warmed, and they have appeared together at several events. Stevens even said lawmakers should follow Palin's lead in her efforts to get a natural gas pipeline built.

Stevens is scheduled to go on trial Sept. 22 in Washington, D.C., on charges he failed to disclose more than $250,000 in home renovations and gifts from executives at oil services contractor VECO Corp. He won the GOP primary on Tuesday with more than 60 percent of the vote. He's pleaded not guilty.

Palin also asked Alaska's congressional delegation to be more selective in seeking earmarks after what came to be known as the "Bridge to Nowhere" turned into a national embarrassment and a symbol of piggish pork-barrel spending.

She also successfully took on the oil industry, leading to a tax increase on oil company profits that now has the state's treasury swelling.

Typically seen walking the Capitol halls in black or red power suits while reading text messages on Blackberry screens in each hand, Palin made a recent appearance in Vogue, the fashion magazine.

And she oversees a state that's hardly shy about admiring her swept-back hair and celebrated smile. Bumper stickers and blogs have proclaimed Alaska and Palin: "Coldest State, Hottest Governor."

Palin describes herself as a "hockey mom" and an occasional commercial fisherwoman. She lives in Wasilla, a town of 6,500 about 30 miles north of Anchorage, with her husband, Todd, a blue-collar North Slope oil worker who competes in the Iron Dog, a 1,900-mile snowmobile race. He is part Yup'ik Eskimo.

Her previous political experience consisted of terms as Wasilla's mayor and councilwoman and a stint as head of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.

Palin's troubles with the GOP began when Murkowski named her chairwoman of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.

There, Palin exposed current Alaska Republican Party Chairman Randy Ruedrich, who was also an AOGCC commissioner, for ethical violations.

In 2005, Palin co-filed an ethics complaint against Murkowski's longtime aide and then attorney general, Gregg Renkes, for having a financial interest in a company that stood to gain from an international trade deal he was helping craft.

The Palins have five children: Track, 19; Bristol 17; Willow 14; Piper, 7, and Trig, who was born in April with Down syndrome.

Track enlisted in the Army in 2007 on the sixth anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and has been assigned to Fort Wainwright in Fairbanks.

Palin was born Feb. 11, 1964, in Idaho, but her parents moved to Alaska shortly after her birth to teach. She received a bachelor of science degree in communications-journalism from the University of Idaho in 1987.


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