Parnell positions himself as fiscal and social conservative

Sean Cockerham | Tribune Media Services
MARC LESTER / Anchorage Daily News

Sean Parnell will become only the second non-elected governor since statehood when he takes the oath of office today. The other was Keith Miller, who served just a year when President Nixon appointed Gov. Wally Hickel secretary of the interior.

Parnell, during his two and a half years as lieutenant governor, never publicly disagreed with Gov. Sarah Palin on anything. Alaskans in politics, business and elsewhere have wondered if his upcoming 16 months in office will simply be a continuation of the Palin years or something entirely different. Parnell, stressing "stability" as he takes the reins of power from Palin, has said that he plans to run for governor next year when this inherited term ends.

One thing is clear about Parnell: He has staked out an idealogical position as a fiscal and social conservative.

He wholeheartedly supported Palin's rejection of some of the federal stimulus money, even going on talk radio to defend her against criticism. He allied with the Washington, D.C., anti-spending group Club for Growth in his unsuccessful run for Congress last year against incumbent Rep. Don Young, calling for fewer earmarked congressional dollars.

Young had the Alaska Right to Life endorsement in past elections, but Parnell took it from him last year. That's because, unlike Young, Parnell opposes abortions even in cases of rape and incest, and is against embryonic stem cell research.

Parnell pushed for across-the-board budget cuts when he was a state senator representing South Anchorage in the late 1990s, a time when state revenue took big hits from low oil prices. He also backed a plan to use Alaska Permanent Fund investment profits to balance the budget, but wanted a public advisory vote first, and didn't press the matter when the 1999 vote failed. Parnell has suggested he now plans to take a more hands-on approach to the budget development process than did Palin, who often relied on vetoes to make her point.

The 46-year-old Parnell was born in California and moved to Alaska at age 10. His father, Pat Parnell, was a member of the Anchorage Assembly and served one term in the Alaska State House as a Democrat.

Sean Parnell graduated from East High School in Anchorage and Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Wash. He obtained a law degree from the University of Puget Sound, also in Tacoma, and had a law practice for many years in Anchorage.

Parnell was elected to the state House in 1992, serving four years there and another four in the Senate. He finished as co-chairman of the budget-writing Senate Finance Committee before deciding not to run for re-election in 2000. Parnell was a lobbyist for the oil company Conoco Phillips in 2002 and 2003 legislative sessions, before then-Gov. Frank Murkowski named him deputy director of the state Division of Oil and Gas in 2003.

Parnell returned to law in 2005. His current course toward the governorship was set when he beat former state Sen. Jerry Ward in the 2006 Republican primary for lieutenant governor and then joined with Palin on the winning ticket that fall.

Find Sean Cockerham online at or call him at 257-4344.