Presumptive Republican nominee John McCain has announced Alaska Governor Sarah Palin (pronounced PAY-lin, not PAH-lin) as his Vice Presidential nominee. Or, rather, presumptive nominee (it’ll become official next week). Here are a few quick facts about her, mostly culled from her rapidly-growing Wikipedia page, and some of my preliminary thoughts on her (presumptive) nomination.
Sarah Heath Palin, age 44, was elected governor of the 49th state in 2006; she narrowly lost a 2002 bid for the state’s Lt. Governorship. She was elected mayor of Wasilla, Alaska (2000 population: 5,470) in 1996 on an anti-corruption platform with promises of cutting property taxes 60%. She fulfilled on both promises, along with a pledge to cut the mayor’s (i.e. her) salary. She was re-elected mayor post in 1999. She had previously served two terms on the Wasilla City Council after having been active in education matters through the local PTA.
As governor, when rising oil and natural gas prices resulted in a huge budget surplus, she returned much of the money to Alaskans. She has good fiscal conservative bona fides–which should help McCain with another traditionally Republican constituency that has been suspicious of him. Like McCain, she has opposed pork barrel spending, including the “Bridge to Nowhere.” Also like McCain, she accepts the reality of global warming and appears, at first glance, pretty good on environmental issues. Like the guy at the top of the ticket, she supports expanded oil drilling as an intermediate help to U.S. energy challenges; though she supports drilling in ANWR, which McCain does not.
She is pro-life, which should help secure the loyalty of social conservatives to the McCain-Palin ticket. She is also against gay marriage, like McCain–and Barack Obama too (but the Democratic nominee is more supportive of civil unions and less supportive of state efforts to ban gay marriage). She complied with an Alaskan state Supreme Court order and signed an implementation of same-sex benefits into law under protest, stating that legal options to avoid doing so had run out. She vetoed , after consultation with the Attorney General, legislation that would have barred the state from granting benefits to the partners of gay state employees. In effect, her veto granted State of Alaska benefits to same-sex couples. Happily, she doesn’t appear to be an ideologue on social issues.
McCain obviously hopes that Palin will shore up his conservative support without alienating moderates while also helping him with female voters, especially Hillary supporters not totally committed to Obama. She is a fresh face who helps update the Republican brand and is a total Washington outsider, unlike Joe Biden, whose 36 years of Senate tenure undercut Obama’s message of “Change.” She is, obviously, untested on the national stage so we’ll have to see how she holds her own against Joe Biden, especially on foreign affairs (he chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee). We’ll also have to see how much substance, if any, she has at her core. But, for now, I’m excited by the pick.
On the personal side, Palin eloped with her high school sweetheart, Todd Palin, in 1988. They have five children: their oldest son Track, enlisted in the United States Army and is scheduled for deployment to Iraq; then three daughters: Bristol, Willow, and Piper; their youngest son, Trig who has Down Syndrome and was born prematurely this past April. Sarah Palin was runner up in the Miss Alaska competition in 1984 and lead her high school basketball team to a state championship in 1982.
Todd Palin is a champion snow mobiler who has four times won the world’s longest snow mobile race, the Tesoro Iron Dog Championship. Even being thrown 70 feet from his vehicle and having to be hospitalized didn’t stop him from finishing 4th in 2008. So, the guy is pretty much made of awesome. If McCain and Palin win, what would that make Todd Palin? Second Gentleman? But there’d be no First Gentleman!