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Published: Saturday, 7/4/2009

Palin to quit as Alaska governor July 26

ANCHORAGE DAILY NEWS

WASILLA, Alaska - Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin abruptly announced yesterday that she will resign this month.

She will be governor until July 26, when Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell will take over.

Mrs. Palin, 45, said she first decided not to run for re-election in the fall when her term is up, then figured in that case she'd just quit now.

She said she didn't want to be a "lame duck," a phrase for officeholders approaching the end of their term and losing clout to get their political agenda through.

"Many just accept that lame duck status and they hit the road, they draw a paycheck. They kind of milk it. And I'm not going to put Alaskans through that. I promised efficiencies and effectiveness," she said.

Her explanation makes no sense, said state Rep. Mike Hawker (R., Anchorage), a leading critic of the governor.

"Seated governors just don't resign in the last year of their term no matter how successful or for that matter unsuccessful they've been," he said. "Right now there are a lot more questions than answers."

Mrs. Palin said she reached her decision after polling her children about whether they wanted her to "make a positive difference and fight for all our children's future from outside the governor's office."

She said the response was unanimously positive.

"I think much of it had to do with the kids seeing their baby brother Trig mocked by some pretty mean-spirited adults recently," Mrs. Palin said.

The governor said people changed after John McCain picked her last year as the Republican nominee for vice president. She brought up all the ethics complaints against her, noting that they were dismissed but ended up costing the state and herself in legal bills.

"It's pretty insane - my staff and I spend most of our day dealing with this instead of progressing our state now. I know I promised no more 'politics as usual,' but this isn't what anyone had in mind for Alaska," she said.

As for her future, Mrs. Palin said:

"I look forward to helping others - to fight for our state and our country, and campaign for those who believe in smaller government, free enterprise, strong national security, support for our troops, and energy independence."

During her news conference in her hometown of Wasilla Mrs. Palin ran off a list of accomplishments during her 2 1/2 years as governor, such as pushing forward on a North Slope natural gas pipeline, rewriting oil taxes, and revising state ethics laws.

Mr. Parnell, who will take over as governor on July 26, said he found out Wednesday night when Mrs. Palin called him and his wife, Sandy, into her office.

"I was very surprised at first. But then as she began to articulate her reasons I began to understand better," he said.

He said she "wants to be able to expand her work on behalf of us all and I could tell she felt frustrated where she was and unable to do that."

After Mr. Parnell is sworn in as governor, Craig Campbell, head of the state Department of Military Affairs and National Guard, will become lieutenant governor.

Mrs. Palin's closest ally in the state Legislature, Senate Minority Leader Gene Therriault, was taken by surprise.

"Not sure what the governor intends to do at this point. I suspect she's keeping her options open," Mr. Therriault said.

Many national Republicans were uncomplimentary of Mrs. Palin's resignation - and not impressed.

It does nothing to shake what GOP pollster Whit Ayers called "the 'lightweight' monkey on her back."

"If you're a serious politician and you're seriously interested in higher office, the best thing you can do is as good a job as possible in the current office," Mr. Ayers said. "I suppose it frees her from the responsibility of a full-time job. It does nothing to enhance the image she has that she's not material for the president of the United States."

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, considered a potential rival for Mrs. Palin if she decides to run for president in 2012, put out a statement.

"I wish Sarah Palin and her family well, and I know that she will continue to be a strong voice in the Republican Party," he said.

Those close to Mrs. Palin's former running mate, Sen. John McCain, were less circumspect. One of Mr. McCain's closest friends and confidants, John Weaver, told the Washington Post he was "not smart enough to see the strategy in this."

"We've seen a lot of nutty behavior from governors and Republican leaders in the last three months, but this one is at the top of that," Mr. Weaver said.

It does free her to run for president "without playing the balancing act of keeping Alaskan voters happy," said Republican strategist Ron Bonjean. Although Mrs. Palin has what he described as a "core following," Mr. Bonjean also said the "constant drama" that surrounds her and her family has become tiresome to many Republicans.

"To win over mainstream Republicans and independents, Palin will need to start talking about important ideas and solutions instead of creating or reacting to tabloid issues," he said.

Mrs. Palin's staunchest supporters in the anti-abortion movement, however, said they felt her entrance on the public stage had been a positive one and said they hope her next step will have an "equal and profound impact."



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