Gov. Sarah Palin is returning to the public eye four days after her bombshell resignation announcement, albeit in a place far removed from the glare of the national media: in a remote fishing village 30 miles north of the Arctic Circle.
Palin is scheduled to appear in Kotzebue to sign a bill designed to bring public safety officers to small towns. Kotzebue is a town of about 3,000 people that is 550 miles northwest of Anchorage and lies on a spit of sand at the end of a peninsula.
Despite the location, Palin will inevitably be faced with questions about what motivated her to abruptly resign just as she tries to elevate her national profile ahead of a possible 2012 presidential run. There has been speculation that she has some legal issue that is not yet known to the public.
But her lawyer told The Associated Press on Monday that she has no legal problems whatsoever, and simply is tired of the hostile political climate, legal bills and other distractions.
"She is leaving now because I think she believes that she has become the issue, rightly or wrongly, with all these ethics complaints and with the issues involving the Legislature, the combativeness they've been demonstrating toward her since she returned from the campaign," Thomas Van Flein said.
"I think she believes it's in the best interest of the state to progress forward, for her to move on to other issues."
Palin has become a lightning rod for partisan politics in Alaska since her return from the 2008 presidential campaign after John McCain selected her as his running mate for the GOP ticket. She has racked up an estimated $500,000 in legal bills defending the flurry of ethics complaints, including one filed Monday that alleges she is violating ethics law by taking per diem payments when she stays in her Wasilla home instead of the governor's mansion in Juneau.
In addition, her relationship with Democrats in the state Senate — once among her staunchest allies — deteriorated in the last session.
The Palin resignation was noticed in halls of the state Capitol in Juneau as well.
The "Time to Make a Difference" clock that counted the time left in Palin's term was taken down from the wall outside her office. And people from around the country called up her office to inquire about the situation, as did a few cruise ship tourists who made the trek to the Capitol.
The young woman at the desk outside Palin's office was busy answering phones.
"Yes, she is getting swamped with e-mails," the woman tells one caller. "Yes, they do get forwarded to the appropriate person."
"Unfortunately, we are having a back load of e-mails so it will take some to get a response," she tells another.
Where is she? Why is she stepping down? When is her last day? Why so soon?
The tour guide tried to politely answer the questions for the tourists when she could, but for the most part had no answers.
Some of the visitors left Palin messages in a guest log.
"Sarah — Please Stay!" one person wrote.
Kathy Waldo-Gilbert, a registered Democrat from Iowa who was on her honeymoon in Alaska, said she was especially disappointed because she believes that Palin's early departure from the governor's job will make it harder for other women who want to be taken seriously in high-profile positions. Waldo-Gilbert voted Republican for the first time in last year's presidential election.
"When things get hard, you stick around," she said.
Erika Fagerstrom, executive residential manager at the governor's mansion, said Palin and her family will be missed. Even though Palin lived most of the time at her home in Wasilla, she spent "quite a bit" of time at the stately columned mansion near the capitol building, she said.
"We are sad to see her go. They are a great family," she said.
Palin will be succeeded by Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell, who has announced he will seek to retain the office in the 2010 election.
State Rep. John Harris, a former House speaker and Republican from Valdez, announced Monday that he's preparing to file paperwork with state election officials in a bid for governor.
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