WASILLA, Alaska — Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin abruptly announced Friday she is resigning from office at the end of the month, a shocking move that rattled the Republican Party but left open the possibility she would seek a run for the White House in 2012.
Palin, 45, and her staff kept her plans shrouded in mystery, and it was unclear if the controversial hockey mom would quietly return to private life or begin laying the foundation for a presidential bid.
Palin, who was elected to a four-year term in 2006 on a populist platform, said her family weighed heavily in her decision.
"I polled the most important people in my life, my kids, where the count was unanimous," she said. "Well, in response to asking, 'Hey, you want me to make a positive difference and fight for all our children's future from outside the governor's office?' It was four yeses and one 'Hell, yeah!' And the 'Hell, yeah' sealed it."
Palin's spokesman, David Murrow, said the governor didn't say anything to him about this being her "political finale." He said he interpreted Palin's comment about working outside government as reflecting her current job only. "She's looking forward to serving the public outside the governor's chair," he said.
Pam Pryor, a spokeswoman for Palin's political action committee SarahPAC, said the group continues to accept donations on its Web site, with an uptick in funds after Palin's announcement.
In a hastily arranged news conference
at her home in suburban Wasilla, Palin said she will formally step down July 26, and Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell will be inaugurated at the governor's picnic in Fairbanks. She said she had decided against running for re-election as Alaska's governor, and thought it was best to leave office even though she had two years left. "Many just accept that lame-duck status, and they hit that road. They draw a paycheck. They kind of milk it. And I'm not going to put Alaskans through that," she said.
The 2008 vice presidential nominee was seen as a likely presidential contender in 2012 and had proved formidable among the party's base. But the past week brought a highly critical piece in Vanity Fair magazine, with campaign aides questioning if Palin was ever really prepared for the presidency.
Follow-up articles recounted the nasty infighting that plagued her failed vice presidential bid. Her advisers sniped with other Republicans, underscoring the deeply divided GOP looking for its next standard bearer.
Meghan Stapleton, Palin's personal spokeswoman, said it's too early to say whether Palin would seek the presidency. In the meantime, the governor will continue to work "toward affecting positive change as a citizen without a title right now," she said.
Jerry McBeath, a veteran political science professor at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, called the pending resignation a "smart move," both for Palin and the state. "Alaska is an isolated stage from which to operate if you want to figure in American national politics," he said. "I don't know what she has in mind. Some TV show or some national radio show. There are opportunities for her, I'm sure."
University of Virginia political analyst Larry Sabato, said Palin's announcement left many confused. "It's absolutely bizarre, and I think it eliminates her from serious consideration for the presidency in 2012," he said.
Fred Malek, a Republican strategist who has advised Palin, said Palin was "really unhappy with the way her life was going."
"She felt that the pressures of the job combined with her family obligations and the demands and desires to help other Republican candidates led her to decide not to run again. Once that decision was made, she realized, why not do it now and let the lieutenant governor take over and get a head start on his election," Malek said.