Politics & Government

Palin's career has been one surprise after another

She burst onto the political scene in Alaska in 2002 almost as stunningly as she stepped onto the national stage as Sen. John McCain's out-of-nowhere choice as his vice presidential running mate in 2008.

Years before she and McCain ran for the nation's highest offices as a pair of "mavericks," Palin built a skyrocketing political career in Alaska on just that quality.

The mayor of Wasilla came across as a bright, charismatic woman with an independent streak. She called shots as she saw them and relished taking on the powers that be. She demanded high ethical standards, and her rise to populist prominence in Alaska tracked a series of ethical lapses in the administration of former Republican Gov. Frank Murkowski and a federal investigation of corruption in the state Legislature.

Relying on strong bipartisan legislative support and stratospheric popular approval from Alaska residents, Gov. Palin pushed through ethics reforms, major changes in the way the state taxed oil companies, and a natural gas pipeline deal that injected momentum into a project that had sat dormant for decades.

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