Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin spent the early part of the 2014 midterms traveling the country endorsing conservative candidates in Republican primary races, hoping to leave her mark on the future of the GOP.
But on Wednesday, Palin rebuked her Republican successor in her home state, endorsing independent gubernatorial candidate Bill Walker, who is running on a "unity ticket" with Democratic running mate Byron Mallott, instead. Palin's endorsement goes against her former lieutenant governor, Gov. Sean Parnell, who assumed office in 2009 when Palin abruptly resigned and is embroiled in a highly contested race for reelection to a second full term.
Palin offered the endorsement at a campaign reception in her Wasilla home, according to a press release issued by Walker.
Parnell's 2013 restructuring of the state's oil and gas taxes dismantled a prior, Palin-championed program that she considered to be one of the greatest achievements of her tenure. That difference of opinion is at the heart of Palin's conflict with Parnell, which resulted in the two campaigning on opposite sides of a ballot measure in this year's primary.
Parnell dismantled Palin's oil-tax increase, called ACES (short for Alaska's Clear and Equitable Share), by signing a repeal of some oil taxes in 2013 that was intended to curb the state's production decline. But many fear the measure will severely diminish the revenue brought in by the state, where oil and gas taxes have accounted for as much as 90 percent of government funds.
Palin backed an initiative to repeal the new law, SB 21, when it appeared on the August primary ballot, which put her at odds with Parnell. (Palin accused Parnell of being "suckered" by "crony capitalists" at the time.) The referendum narrowly failed, garnering 47 percent of the vote as the state's Republican U.S. Senate primary attracted conservative voters to the polls. According to the Walker release, Palin offered her endorsement because she "trust[s] them to develop our God-given resources responsibly and to the maximum benefit of Alaskans."
Walker merged his ticket with Mallott in early September, and polls have since shown the race to be a toss-up. It's unclear, however, how big an impact a Palin endorsement will have on the race. The former governor's local approval ratings have been in decline since she left office.