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Angie Drobnic Holan
By Angie Drobnic Holan September 2, 2008

"Executive" makes it right

The experience issue came roaring back to the 2008 campaign after John McCain picked Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin to be his running mate.

The Sunday after the Palin announcement, Republican Rudy Giuliani defended the choice on CBS's Face the Nation.

"Maybe it's my own background as a mayor and United States attorney," Giuliani said. "But this whole idea of executive experience to me would really qualify her. I mean, she already has more executive experience than Biden and Obama combined."

Palin graduated from University of Idaho in 1987 with a major in journalism and worked as a sports reporter for about two years. She married her husband in 1988 and co-owned small businesses with him (a commercial fishing operation and a snow machine and all-terrain vehicle business).

In 1992, her political career began when she won election to the Wasilla (prounounced wah-SIL-uh) city council. In 1996, she ran for mayor of Wasilla and unseated the incumbent by a vote of 617 to 413, according to press reports.

Wasilla has a strong-mayor form of government. The mayor breaks ties on the city council and acts as the city administrator. When Palin took office in 1996, the pay was $68,000. In 2000, Wasilla had a population of 5,469, according to the 2000 U.S. Census. It is located near the city of Anchorage.

During her tenure as mayor, Palin focused on increasing funding for basic infrastructure.

During her bid for re-election in 1999, the Anchorage Daily News reported that Palin "counts among her successes the recently opened Fred Meyer store, the passage of a $5.5-million road and sewer bond, and the near halving of property taxes from 2 mills to 1.2 mills, the equivalent of an $80-a-year drop in taxes on a $100,000 home." Palin also cut the budget of the city's museum, and all three of the museum's employees quit in protest.

Terms limits prevented her from running for mayor again in 2002. Instead, she ran for Alaska lieutenant governor and lost. In 2003, Gov. Frank Murkowski appointed her to the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, where she served about a year before leaving the commission and blowing the whistle on fellow Republicans for conflicts of interest and conducting campaign work on public time.

In 2006, she ran for governor, defeating the incumbent Murkowski in a primary and then winning the general. She took office on Dec. 4, 2006, and will have held office for two years a month after Election Day.

So Palin has six years of executive experience as mayor of Wasilla and two years of executive experience as governor of Alaska, for a total of eight years of executive experience.

Neither Obama, Biden, nor McCain have ever held the office of governor or mayor. McCain has about 13 months executive experience in leading a Navy unit of 1,000 people when he was in the military. So Palin beats all of them.

Obama has argued that running his national campaign constitutes relevant executive experience. "My understanding is that Gov. Palin's town, Wasilla, has I think 50 employees," Obama told CNN on Sept. 1, 2008. "We've got 2,500 in this campaign. I think their budget is maybe 12-million dollars a year – we have a budget of about three times that just for the month."

But we think elected executive experience is what Giuliani had in mind here. And even given Obama's point, Palin's years of elected executive experience beat out the rest of both tickets, even her own running mate. So we find Giuliani's statement True.


Our Sources

Face the Nation, Interview with Rudy Giuliani , Aug. 31, 2008, What's in a resume? , Nov. 6, 2007

Almanac of American Politics

Alaska Governor's Office, Sarah Palin biography

Associated Press, Timeline of Palin's life and career

Anchorage Daily News, "Palin wins re-election in Wasilla," Oct. 6, 1999

Anchorage Daily News, "Mayoral race tests valley," Sept. 20, 1999

Anchorage Daily News, "Museum staff quits in anger," Aug. 6, 1997

Anchorage Daily News, "Palin wins Wasilla's mayor job," Oct. 2, 1996, Obama defends natural disaster experience , Sept. 1, 2008


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