Sean Parnell: Alaska's New Governor

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Eric Engman / Getty

Outgoing Alaska Governor Sarah Palin (2nd L), her husband Todd (C) look on as incoming Governor Sean Parnell (2nd R) is sworn in by Supreme Court Justice Daniel Winfree (L) during the annual Governor's Picnic July 26, 2009, at Pioneer Park in Fairbanks, Alaska

Sean Parnell has a tough act to follow. Emerging from the wings after Alaska Governor and former GOP vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin stepped down July 26, the new governor, 46, shares his predecessor's conservative values but is her temperamental opposite. Palin's larger-than-life personality captivated the country; Parnell, by contrast, is known for a low-key demeanor that verges on bland. A former political rival, for instance, once referred to him as "Captain Zero," while the Anchorage Press has dubbed him "the oatmeal governor."

Some Alaska pols, however, say that could be just what the state needs. Parnell is a steadfast social conservative and has nearly a decade's experience in the state's House and Senate—a background that could help him reopen channels of communication between the governor's mansion and the legislature that all but closed during Palin's final months. "I think his understanding of how to communicate is going to do him well," State Rep. John Coghill told the Associated Press July 26. "That's one of the things [Palin] has struggled with. I think he will just do better at it."

Fast Facts:

• Born in Hanford, Calif. Moved to Alaska at age 10.

• Graduated from East Anchorage High School in 1980.

• Earned a Bachelor of Business Administration from Pacific Lutheran University and a law degree from University of Puget Sound School of Law (now called Seattle University School of Law).

• Owned a small law practice in downtown Anchorage. Parnell is also admitted to practice law in Washington, D.C.

• Married his wife, Sandy, in 1987. They have two daughters, Grace and Rachel.

• Was elected to the Alaska House of Representatives in 1992 at age 29, and reelected in 1994.

• Served one term in the Alaska State Senate from 1996 to 2000, co-chairing the powerful Senate Finance Committee.

• A longtime advocate against domestic violence, has cited Alaska's Domestic Violence Prevention and Victim Protection Act of 1996 as one of his proudest legislative achievements.

• Worked as a lobbyist for ConocoPhillips in 2002 and 2003.

• Was appointed deputy director of Alaska's Division of Oil and Gas in 2003.

• In 2005, made partner at the Anchorage branch of the Washington, D.C.–based law firm Patton Boggs.

• Beat former state Sen. Jerry Ward in the 2006 Republican primary for lieutenant governor. Teamed up with Palin on the winning ticket that fall.

• Made headlines with a surprise 2008 decision to oppose 18-term incumbent Don Young in the U.S. House Republican primary — and lost by just 304 votes. (Parnell's father, Pat, had run and lost against Young as a Democrat in the 1980 general election.)

• Has said he supports drilling in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge. Following Palin's announcement that she would resign, declared that his top priority would be securing a national gas pipeline expected to boost Alaska's economy.

• According to the Anchorage Daily News, opposes abortions even in cases of rape and incest and is against stem-cell research.

• Enjoys skiing, reading, fly-fishing and running, according to the newspaper Juneau Empire. Is active with the Red Cross and Habitat for Humanity.

Quotes By:

"I was taken aback...When the governor takes that kind of a step, it's a serious thing. It was clear to me she gave it a lot of thought."
— On Palin's decision to resign. (Associated Press, July 26, 2009)

"We share the same core values."
— Comparing himself to Sarah Palin. (Associated Press, July 26, 2009)

Quotes About:

"He is making a bigger effort to communicate with us [than Palin did], particularly right now."
— Alaska House Speaker Mike Chenault. (Anchorage Daily News, July 25, 2009)

"Well, all of us look dull in comparison to Sarah Palin, so that's not really a fault of Sean Parnell's...Some people are weary of the drama."
— Alaska Senate Majority Leader Johnny Ellis. (KTUU, July 15, 2009)

"Our new governor has a very nice family too, so leave his kids alone."
— Sarah Palin, warning the media off Parnell's personal life. (Farewell speech, July 26, 2009)

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