Who Is Gov. Sarah Palin?

Sen. John McCain's pick of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin means a little-known woman will now be number two on the GOP ticket. Palin is a first term governor and mother of five.

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MADELEINE BRAND, host:

And now, we go to NPR's Martin Kaste. He has covered Sarah Palin's career in Alaska. He just sat down for an interview with her a few weeks ago. Hi, Martin.

MARTIN KASTE: Hi.

BRAND: Well, first gives us a little bio of her. Who is Sarah Palin?

KASTE: Palin, she's relatively young. She's 44, she's a mother of five. She's got - her eldest is in the Army, he just joined last year. He's shipping to Iraq soon. Her youngest was born this year, a little boy named Trig. She's also sort of, well, not sort of, she's very much a fresh face in Alaska Republican politics. She's sort of surged onto the scene in her race in '06 when she challenged the sitting Republican governor, Frank Murkowski. And beat him in the primary, and it really sort of stunned the old establishment in Alaska. And ever since then, she sort of represented, sort of a new generation of Republican leaders.

BRAND: Now, she has been governor for less than two years, in that time period, what kind of governor has she been?

KASTE: Well, she's made her mission here to expand or improve transparency and ethical reform in the state government. As you likely know, Alaska has been just shaken by corruption scandals for the past couple of years. The FBI has been investigating state legislators, three of them are in jail for bribery now, more maybe coming.

So she sort of arrived on the scene in the middle of all of that, and push for new ethics rule in the legislature and her - one of her biggest goals in office is to get a big new natural gas pipeline. Something along the lines of the old Alaska oil pipeline, built so that Alaska can ship out it's natural gas.

But she wants that done in a more transparent fashion. She says she wants more outside energy companies coming and bidding on that. As oppose to sort of, deals struck among the elite, as she would say, you know, the old governor was accused by her of cutting a deal with the oil companies that just wasn't too favorable to Alaska, or so she said at the time, in terms of oil production taxes. So, she wants all of that to have a lot of more sunlight.

BRAND: Well, speaking of sunlight, she's facing an ethics investigation of her own, is she not?

KASTE: It's a bit of a fly in the ointment for ethical Sarah Palin. There's - in the last month or so, there's been increasing attention paid to an incident in which her opponent say, she pressured her public safety commissioner to fire her sister's ex-husband. He's a trooper and what they're saying is that she was trying to get him canned. She denies this, but there's a lot of evidence that suggests - that things are a little more complicated than that and the legislature is investigating now.

BRAND: Now, she's known as a maverick. She's bucked the establishment so in that way, she compares favorably to John McCain. And tell us a bit more about how she compares with him.

KASTE: Well, she certainly loves his maverick image. She likes the fact that he challenges the party hierarchy as she has done, and so she's been early McCain supporter on that score. She's got more of a social conservative background than he does, and that may very well be why she's on the ticket because she's got more of those bona fides. But at the same time, some people in Alaska point out that in the two years she's in office so far, she hasn't actually made any big moves on the social conservative front. That she's, you know, she calls herself a social conservative, and certainly has those values, but (unintelligible) necessarily done a lot about it.

BRAND: Social conservative, she's very pro-life.

KASTE: Pro-life - and just, you know, the family values, that sort of thing. Granted in Alaska, that's never really a big legislative issue, but she certainly hasn't made any big moves on that. So, she certainly culturally identified with that - with that side of the Republican Party, but hasn't been even a big banner in legislature for her to get things pass on that.

BRAND: Well, thanks a lot.

KASTE: Thank you.

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McCain Picks Alaska's Gov. Sarah Palin For VP Spot

Republican Sen. John McCain announced Friday that Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin will be his vice presidential running mate, a move that brings youth and a staunch abortion opponent to the GOP ticket.

"She's exactly who this country needs to help us fight the same old Washington politics of me first and country second," McCain said at a rally in Dayton, Ohio.

Palin is the first woman to be named to a spot on the GOP ticket. "I am honored," she said, as her husband and four of her children stood behind her. Her eldest child was absent from the event, pending his deployment to Iraq.

McCain's campaign touted Palin as a maverick who has challenged the influence of big oil companies and used her veto power to cut budgetary spending since becoming governor two years ago.

"Governor Palin has the record of reform and bipartisanship that others can only speak of. Her experience in shaking up the status quo is exactly what is needed in Washington today," the campaign's news release said.

Palin, 44, was elected Alaska's first woman governor in 2006 on a platform of ethics reform. She has extensive influence in Alaska politics, having served as mayor of Wasilla and ethics commissioner on the state's Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.

Palin has also been a steadfast opponent of abortion, giving birth earlier this year to a child she knew would have Down syndrome. Her addition to the ticket could bolster McCain's support among the Republican Party's Christian base.

Palin and her husband, Todd, have five children, ranging in age from 18 years to 4 months. Todd Palin is of native Alaskan Yup'ik ancestry.

McCain's announcement comes a day after Illinois Sen. Barack Obama accepted the Democratic Party's presidential nomination. McCain and Palin will face Obama and Delaware Sen. Joseph Biden in the Nov. 4 election.

Palin will become only the second female vice presidential nominee of a major party. Democrat Geraldine Ferraro was Walter Mondale's pick as a running mate in 1984.

From NPR and wire reports.

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