Why did Sarah Palin resign in 2009? Former governor set for ‘comeback’

Bruno Cooke August 17, 2022
Why did Sarah Palin resign in 2009? Former governor set for ‘comeback’
Photo by Darren Hauck/Getty Images

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Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin is running for office again in an attempt to fill the seat held until recently by the late Don Young, raising questions about why she resigned her governorship more than a decade ago.

NBC News has projected a top-four position for Palin in November’s ranked-choice general election, suggesting she is on track for a “political comeback”. It will be the first time Alaska has used ranked-choice voting.

Palin became governor of Alaska in 2006, with a clean eight-point majority. Her running mate was state senator Sean Parnell.

Her reasons for resigning were fodder for numerous op-eds, both at the time and since. What better time to look over them than now, as she returns to political life?

Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Why did Sarah Palin resign her Alaska governorship in 2009?

She said in an interview with the Anchorage Daily News in July 2009 that one of the key reasons she stepped down from being governor of Alaska was the time it took to process ethics complaints filed against her.

“Especially when all these lawmakers are lining up for office,” she said. “Their desire would be to clobber the administration left and right so they can position themselves for office. I’m not going to put Alaskans through that.”

“It’s a combination of things that has brought me to this place of knowing,” the former governor added. “I love Alaskans too much to put them through a lame duck session heading into my final year in office; I was going to be honest and tell them I’m not going to run for re-election.

“I’m not going to let Alaskans go through a year of stymied, paralyzed administration and not getting anything done. I’m going to let Sean Parnell take this and we will see that things will let up.”

Photo by Darren Hauck/Getty Images

She said political operatives had ‘descended’ on her and staff

In that interview, Palin said a “combination of things” led up to her decision to resign.

A New York Times article from the same day – July 6, 2009 – concluded “legal bills” had “swayed” Palin.

A large chunk of her complete remarks announcing her resignation are still available to read via the Washington Post’s Voices website here.

In her statement, she claimed political operatives had “descended” on Alaska the previous year “digging for dirt”; she and her staff apparently spent most of their time “dealing with this” instead of “progressing our state.”

Adviser claims Sarah Palin resigned as Alaska governor because she was ‘going broke’

New York Magazine published an article in April 2010 – nine months after Palin’s resignation – entitled The Revolution Will Be Commercialized

In it, journalist Gabriel Sherman claims making the choice “may have been as easy as balancing a checkbook.”

As governor, one of Sarah Palin’s advisers told Sherman: “Her [Palin’s] life was terrible. She was never home, her office was four hours from her house. You’ve got to drive an hour from Wasilla to Anchorage. And she was going broke.”

She had reportedly racked up $500,000 in legal bills and, Sherman muses, “was more than shrewd enough to see there was money to be made on her newfound national profile.”

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Time Magazine suggests VP campaign distanced Palin from her base

At the start of her term as governor of Alaska in 2006, Time writes, Palin’s platform “looked much more Democratic than Republican.” She used to drop cookies and bagels off at the legislative offices.

“I’m sure she visited some Republicans but mostly the people she visited were Democrats,” Alaska representative Harry Crawford told the magazine. 

“With Sarah, we were able to do things we’d been trying to do for 25 years. Everything she can point to in terms of achievement was done with nearly uniform Democrat votes and just a smattering of Republican votes.”

But her campaign to be vice-president alongside John McCain “remolded” her in the eyes of Alaskan Democrats. No longer was she a moderate “willing to reach out across the aisle.” And as she became more partisan, the outlet concludes, she lost support in Alaska. 

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Bruno is a novelist, amateur screenwriter and journalist with interests in digital media, storytelling, film and politics. He’s lived in France, China, Sri Lanka and the Philippines, but returned to the UK for a degree (and because of the pandemic) in 2020. His articles have appeared in Groundviews, Forge Press and The Friday Poem, and most are readable on Medium or onurbicycle.com.