But the 44-year-old first-term Alaska governor is a favorite of right-wing Christian groups and was hailed Friday by one organization as “a true Christian” who is “pro-life and pro-marriage.” She also has favored the teaching of creationism in Alaska’s schools.
After the surprise announcement Friday, the McCain campaign tried to frame Palin as a reformer who has taken on corruption in Alaska. However, an examination of her career as a small-town mayor and inexperienced governor reveals an official prone to petty squabbles and personal retaliation.
In 1996, after winning the election to be mayor of Wasilla, then a town with a population of 5,000, Palin sought to oust six department heads because they had signed a letter supporting the previous mayor, their old boss.
Palin ultimately fired two of them, the police chief and the museum director, and pushed two others into quitting.
In 1997, some residents considered her actions so high-handed that they tried to initiate a recall election.
“Four months of turmoil have followed in which almost every move by Palin has been questioned,” the Associated Press reported in a Feb. 11, 1997 dispatch. “Critics argue the [Palin] decisions are politically motivated.”
Wasilla’s ousted police chief, Irl Stambaugh, sued Palin that year for alleged contract violation, wrongful termination and gender discrimination The police chief claimed Palin fired him not for cause but for being disloyal and because he was a man whose size – 6 feet and 200 pounds – intimidated her.
However, the recall election never got off the ground, and a federal judge rejected Stambaugh’s lawsuit.
Now, as Alaska’s governor, Palin is under investigation for allegedly ousting Alaska public safety commissioner Walt Monegan because he refused to fire a state trooper entangled in a divorce and custody battle with Palin’s sister.
That probe also is examining whether Palin’s extended family, including her husband, and members of her staff tried to pressure Monegan to fire state trooper Mike Wooten because of the divorce.
Monegan told the Anchorage Daily News that the governor’s husband, Todd Palin, showed him the work of a private investigator, who had been hired by the family to dig into Wooten’s life and who was accusing the trooper of various misdeeds, such as drunk driving and child abuse.
In early August 2008, the state legislature agreed to investigate the circumstances surrounding Gov. Palin’s firing of Monegan. She initially welcomed the probe and denied that she had put pressure on Monegan.
Later, however, Palin acknowledged that there had been more than two dozen inquiries from her staff to the public safety department regarding trooper Wooten, though Palin still insisted she had no role in them.
Gov. Palin also released an audio recording of her director of state boards and commissions, Frank Bailey, pressing police Lt. Rodney Dial in February 2008 about why no action had been taken against Wooten.
Besides the prospect of more embarrassing disclosures about Palin’s thin government record, McCain’s VP choice also undercuts his campaign’s theme that Barack Obama lacks the foreign-policy experience to be Commander in Chief, since Palin is a virtual unknown on the international stage.