ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Sarah Palin has snubbed her former lieutenant governor in his bid for re-election, supporting an independent candidate after Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell dismantled the increased oil taxes that were a signature part of her time as governor.
Palin on Tuesday night hosted a reception for the gubernatorial ticket of Bill Walker and Byron Mallott at her lakeside home north of Anchorage.
Walker, a former Republican, and Mallott, a Democrat, joined forces after the primary with Walker at the top of the ticket, in an effort to unseat Parnell in next month's election. Parnell, a Republican, has held office since Palin quit in July 2009 after her run as vice president.
Messages to Palin's spokesmen Thursday weren't immediately returned, and Walker's campaign says they don't consider it a full-on endorsement by Palin.
But coming from Palin — who has been known to energize tea party supporters and affect campaigns across the county by merely tweeting or Facebooking an endorsement — the support in her former state could be a boon for the independent ticket at a time when Parnell already is under fire over allegations of sexual abuse and fraud within the Alaska National Guard.
Parnell campaign manager Tom Wright said in a statement that Walker has flip-flopped on whether Palin is supporting his campaign.
"I've never heard of a partial endorsement," Wright said. "Either Palin is endorsing, or she isn't. Then again, maybe Walker's Democratic supporters are pushing him to steer clear."
The relationship between Palin and her former lieutenant soured since their time together in office, with a major source of contention centered on taxes on the oil industry, which funds nearly all of Alaska state government.
Palin's plan placed higher taxes on the industry, and as a result, provided a multibillion dollar cash injection to state coffers.
Parnell initially supported Palin's taxation plan, but began efforts to change it after he was elected to his own term in office in 2010.
Oil companies complained that state taxes ate too much of the profits and discouraged new investment. Parnell's plan, approved by lawmakers, lowered taxes on the oil industry with the hope that companies would invest more in increased production and exploration.
Palin supported a ballot initiative in the August primary to repeal the law, but the vote failed. Months before that vote, Palin questioned Parnell's motivation for his about-face on her tax plan.
"Well, bless his heart. Remember that Sean Parnell came from the oil industry. He was, you know, an employee of ConocoPhillips ... lobbying for the cause there. So perhaps that's ingrained in him," she said during a May interview on an Anchorage radio station.
Parnell was the director of state government relations for ConocoPhillips in Alaska from 2000 to 2003.