Sarah Palin (R)
WASILLA, Alaska (Legal Newsline)-Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee, announced Friday she will step down in a matter of weeks.
In a surprise announcement at a press conference in her hometown of Wasilla, the 45-year-old Palin said she will leave the governor's office July 26, a move that has spurred speculation the first-term governor plans to focus on a presidential race in 2012.
"Once I decided not to run for re-election, I also felt that to embrace the conventional Lame Duck status in this particular climate would just be another dose of politics as usual, something I campaigned against and will always oppose," Palin said in a statement.
Palin was elected governor of Alaska in November 2006, becoming the first woman and the youngest person to hold the job. She defeated incumbent Gov. Frank Murkowski in the Republican primary in 2006.
After Palin's resignation becomes effective on July 26, Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell will be inaugurated at the governor's picnic in Fairbanks, Alaska.
Palin was Arizona Sen. John McCain's vice presidential running mate last year. She was undoubtedly the most polarizing figure in the 2008 presidential race.
While she enjoyed unwavering support among most conservatives on the presidential campaign trail, she drew nearly constant criticism from Democrats and many non-affiliated voters.
By leaving public office, Palin is free accumulate resources for a national race. She could go on to cash in on her popularity among conservatives by doing speaking engagements and making appearances for profit, which she would have been barred from doing as governor.
At her announcement, Palin, who is in the last year of her first term as governor, said she and her husband Todd plan to return to private life.
"We are not retreating, we are advancing in a different direction," Palin said. "We know we can effect positive change outside government at this moment in time."
From Legal Newsline: Reach staff reporter Chris Rizo at firstname.lastname@example.org.