Goodbye Sarah Palin, Hello Sean Parnell

fromKUAC

Sarah Palin officially has stepped down as governor of Alaska, 17 months short of finishing her term. Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell has taken over. Thousands gathered to hear her resignation speech at a Fairbanks picnic.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning. I'm Steve Inskeep.

LINDA WERTHEIMER, host:

And I'm Linda Wertheimer.

Today is the first day of the rest of Sarah Palin's life. The Alaska governor left office yesterday, making good on a resignation announcement a few weeks ago. Palin delivered one more speech as she turned over her job to Lieutenant Governor Sean Parnell.

Dan Bross of our member station KUAC was listening in Fairbanks, Alaska.

DAN BROSS: Sarah Palin left state office with 18 months to go in her term, and in her farewell speech said she stepped aside to avoid being a lame duck. Palin did not provide any direct clues to her political ambitions, but her speech highlighted issues that transcend Alaska.

Ms. SARAH PALIN (Former Governor, Alaska): Be wary of accepting government largess. It doesn't come free. And often, accepting it takes away everything that is free.

BROSS: There was palpable buzz of celebrity in the air at Fairbanks Pioneer Park as thousands were on hand to see the outgoing governor. Dwayne Murray(ph), a tourist from Mansfield, Texas who was passing through Fairbanks on a motorcycle trip says he made it a point not to miss Palin.

Mr. DWAYNE MURRAY: We heard that Sarah was going to be here today and thought this would be the icing on the cake because we Texans love Sarah, very supportive of conservative Christian people.

BROSS: Alaskans know Palin both as celebrity and local politician, and her ardent supporters were out in force at Sunday's event. Lynn Groves Kelley(ph) of Fairbanks was among a large group that wore T-shirts reading: We still love you, Sarah.

Ms. LYNN GROVES KELLEY: I just love her strength, the fact that she is a mother and a working woman. Any decision she makes, I am behind her one hundred percent. And if people were taking shots at my children and my family the way that they've done to her, I'm sure I would have done the same thing.

BROSS: While many were sad to see Palin go, others were thrilled. Fairbanks locals Jane Hague(ph) and Laurie Ikelberger(ph) held signs that said: Sick of Sarah.

Ms. JANE HAGUE: She's taken on the aspects of a kind of a reality TV star, the creation of the media, and she really doesn't have anything really relevant to say anymore.

Ms. LAURIE IKELBERGER: She stopped doing anything for Alaska around the time that she became vice presidential candidate. I mean, you know, she didn't even stick around for the whole legislative session.

BROSS: In her speech, Palin took time to highlight her administration's accomplishments, including legislation that's paved the way for development of an Alaska natural gas pipeline. She repeatedly thanked the military, which maintains large installations in Alaska, using the opportunity to needle the national media.

Ms. PALIN: Democracy depends on you. And that is why - that's why our troops are willing to die for you. So, how about in honor of the American soldier, you quit making things up?

(Soundbite of crowd cheering)

BROSS: Other than a high dollar book deal, some speeches outside the state and promises of less politically correct posts on her popular Twitter site, Sarah Palin's plans remain a mystery. Alaska's state government is likely destined to return to its pre-Palin low profile. Her successor, Sean Parnell, shares her conservative values, but is a less confrontational career state politician.

For NPR News, I'm Dan Bross in Fairbanks, Alaska.

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