ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Sean Parnell becomes Alaska's 10th governor since statehood today, taking on the lightning rod legacy of Sarah Palin, questions about his toughness and an election just a year from now, when at least two members of the Legislature will try to take his job.
Parnell follows probably the best-known Alaskan in history, a governor who fascinated and polarized the nation. He was Palin's lieutenant governor and close ally, and has never publicly disagreed with any of her policies.
Palin, announcing her resignation on July 3, said she was passing the reins to Parnell to continue the same agenda. But he faces major issues.
He takes office with a state budget that's just a thin line away from running red and as the push for a natural gas pipeline to the Lower 48 enters a crucial year.
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Oil industry players and legislators sympathetic to their point of view hope Parnell, with his industry background and work under oil-friendly Gov. Frank Murkowski, will change the tone set by Palin on oil taxes and on the gas line. Parnell backed Palin on those initiatives and has made it clear he still intends to follow them, but both sides will watch carefully how he approaches oil and gas issues now that he is in charge.
Parnell also has a state Supreme Court appointment to make, inherits a health department under fire for its care of the disabled and elderly, and has to work with a state Legislature that was openly hostile to his predecessor.
There are political benefits to following in the footsteps of Palin, whose Alaska approval ratings had fallen but were still more than 50 percent before she resigned.
Palin got a lot of Alaskans' blood boiling, though, especially in the Legislature. Lawmakers constantly battled with her.
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