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Profile: Vice Presidential Pick Fits the Maverick Mold

In just two short years, Sarah Palin moved from suburban hockey mom and small-town mayor to vice presidential contender.

Sarah Palin
AP
Sarah Palin

The 44-year-old Republican, Alaska's first female governor, arrived at the Capitol in 2006 on an ethics reform platform after defeating two former governors in the primary and general elections.

  • On Friday she was ready to leap to the national stage as GOP presidential candidate John McCain's surprise choice for running mate, according to two senior campaign officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because the announcement was pending.

She already has a national reputation for bucking her party's establishment and Alaska's powerful oil industry back home.

With ethics the centerpiece of her campaign, Palin defeated incumbent Gov. Frank Murkowski, who served 22 years in the U.S. Senate before winning the governor's seat in 2002.

Her task didn't seem any easier in the general election, but she handily beat Tony Knowles, a popular Democrat who already served two terms as governor.

During her first year in office, Palin distanced herself from the powerful old guard of the state Republican Party, even calling on Sen. Ted Stevens to explain to Alaskans why federal authorities were investigating him. Since then, their relationship has warmed, and they have appeared together at several events.

Stevens even said lawmakers should follow Palin's lead in her efforts to get a natural gas pipeline built.

Stevens is scheduled to go on trial Sept. 22 in Washington, D.C., on charges he failed to disclose more than $250,000 in home renovations and gifts from executives at oil services contractor VECO Corp.

He won the GOP primary on Tuesday with more than 60 percent of the vote.He's pleaded not guilty.

Palin also asked Alaska's congressional delegation to be more selective in seeking earmarks after what came to be known as the "Bridge to Nowhere" turned into a national embarrassment and a symbol of piggish pork-barrel spending.

She also successfully took on the oil industry, leading to a tax increase on oil company profits that now has the state's treasury swelling.

Typically seen walking the Capitol halls in black or red power suits while reading text messages on Blackberry screens in each hand, Palin made a recent appearance in Vogue, the fashion magazine.

And she oversees a state that's hardly shy about admiring her swept-back hair and celebrated smile.

Bumper stickers and blogs have proclaimed Alaska and Palin: "Coldest State, Hottest Governor." Palin describes herself as a "hockey mom" and an occasional commercial fisherwoman.

She lives in Wasilla, a town of 6,500 about 30 miles north of Anchorage, with her husband, Todd, a blue-collar North Slope oil worker who competes in the Iron Dog, a 1,900-mile snowmobile race. He is part Yup'ik Eskimo.

Her previous political experience consisted of terms as Wasilla's mayor and councilwoman and a stint as head of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.

Palin's troubles with the GOP began when Murkowski named her chairwoman of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.

There, Palin exposed current Alaska Republican Party Chairman Randy Ruedrich, who was also an AOGCC commissioner, for ethical violations.

In 2005, Palin co-filed an ethics complaint against Murkowski's longtime aide and then attorney general, Gregg Renkes, for having a financial interest in a company that stood to gain from an international trade deal he was helping craft.

The Palins have five children: Track, 19; Bristol 17; Willow 14; Piper, 7, and Trig, who was born in April with Down syndrome.

Track enlisted in the Army in 2007 on the sixth anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and has been assigned to Fort Wainwright in Fairbanks. Palin was born Feb. 11, 1964, in Idaho, but her parents moved to Alaska shortly after her birth to teach.

She received a bachelor of science degree in communications-journalism from the University of Idaho in 1987.