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A Profile of Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin

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Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin

Win McNamee/Getty Images

Conservative Credentials:

Since running for vice president in 2008 and stepping down as governor of Alaska in 2009, Sarah Louise Heath Palin, 45, continues to be the target of a wildly liberal press. Even after the 2008 presidential campaign had concluded, Palin was the subject of relentless attacks by local and national liberals. Through it all, Palin has never wavered in her defense of the unborn, her belief in school prayer or her support of conservative candidates whatever their party affiliation. She made national headlines in October 2009, when she bucked the GOP in a New York House race in favor of a third-party conservative candidate.

Early Life:

Palin was born in Sandpoint, Idaho in 1964, the daughter of Charles and Sally Heath. Her family moved to Alaska after her birth, and as soon as she was old enough, she hunted for Moose with her father. A basketball player for the Wasilla High School Warriors, she was known as a "barracuda" for her play. In 1984, she won second-place in a "Miss Alaska" beauty contest, which helped pay for college. An avid outdoorswoman, she was a sports reporter for a small Anchorage TV station. She admits to experimenting with marijuana when it was legal in Alaska, but says didn't like it.

Family:

Just after college, Palin married her high school sweetheart, Todd Palin, a commercial fisherman and native Eskimo, who is a champion snowmobiler. The couple has five children: Track, 19, who enlisted in the Army on Sept. 11, 2007; Bristol, 18, who gave birth on the campaign trail in 2008; Willow, 14, who was the subject of off-color remarks by David Letterman; Piper, 8; and Trig Paxson, who was born with Down's Syndrome in April 2008. Although the family knew of his condition before his birth, they maintained their pro-life values and refused to abort the pregnancy.

Early Political Life:

Palin was a two-term commissioner on the Wasilla City Council between 1992 and 1996, when she challenged and defeated the incumbent mayor. Palin's legacy began when she kept her campaign promises by reducing her own salary along with property taxes. She won re-election by a huge margin in 1998. In 2003, she served on an oil and gas commission as an ethics advisor, but resigned in 2004 over the board's "lack of ethics." She exposed a board member (who was also the state's GOP chairman) for doing party work on the public's dime and giving sensitive information to lobbyists. He resigned and paid a $12,000 fine.

Race for Governor:

Leveraging her popularity, Palin ran for governor in 2006 on a "clean government" platform. Her support from fellow Republicans was lukewarm and she was outspent by her Democratic opponent, yet won the election handily, becoming the state's first woman governor. From the moment she entered the race, she showed a proficiency for debate and was able to use the media to her advantage. Her small-town persona and no-nonsense positions on ethics issues endeared her to the public and helped Alaskans identify with her. She garnered more than 48 percent of the vote and at 42 became the state's youngest governor.

Gubernatorial Career:

After taking office in January 2007, Palin immediately pushed for an ethics bill, which ultimately cut back much of the state's wasteful spending. After originally supporting the so-called "Bridge to Nowhere," Palin went on to become a fierce opponent of the project, which was billed by many conservatives as the symbol of all that was wrong with government. Before the 2008 campaign, Palin's approval ratings often topped the 90 percentile. After the campaign, her image took several hard hits in the national liberal media, and eventually she chose to resign rather than subject the state to any further embarrassment.

Energy:

Palin's position on energy usage is unique from many GOP oil proponents. Despite her husband's occasional employment with British Petroleum, Palin took great pains as governor to distance herself from Big Oil. She was nonetheless committed to helping Alaskans economically by supporting development in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and reminded critics that the footprint for the project would be equivalent to the size of a postage stamp on a large desk. Even after the 2008 election, Palin worked hard to address climate change issues such as greenhouse emissions and pollution both in and out of office.

Economy:

Since state residents pay the highest fuel prices in the nation, Palin used a budget surplus she created to successfully push the Alaska Gasline Inducement Act, which provided a legal foothold for the development of a natural gas pipeline running from Alaska's North Slope to the Canadian and American markets. In 2008, she proposed the elimination of the state's gas tax, which gave every resident a $1,200 annual stipend and used surplus money to give grants to electric companies contingent upon rate reductions. Her initiatives elevated her popularity but more importantly, boosted the Alaskan economy.

Social Issues:

A lifetime member of the NRA, a pro-lifer, a fiscal conservative and a strong proponent of family values, Palin is a conservative on every major social and political issue. She favors the death penalty, and although she opposes gay marriage, she has no problem with the lifestyle and is tough on gay-lesbian discrimination. In Alaska, she vetoed for a plan that would have prevented the extension of benefits to partners of gay state employees.

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