Josh Goodman is a former staff writer for GOVERNING..E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Sean Parnell has a reputation for being low-key, open and collegial.
As Alaska's new governor, Sean Parnell simply needs to diffuse a politically poisonous atmosphere, mend a fractured Republican Party and guide one of the largest infrastructure projects in American history. He has one year to do it.
With Sarah Palin's departure, Parnell takes over at a difficult time. Fluctuating oil prices have thrown Alaska's state budget into uncertainty. Drug abuse, domestic violence and the high school dropout rate remain persistent problems. And the state's massive natural gas pipeline project faces key upcoming tests. Those include bidding by customers for space in the pipeline and negotiations over taxes with energy companies that are bankrolling a project whose cost may reach $40 billion.
Parnell's background positions him well for the job. He's a former legislator, lawyer and oil-company employee. On the issues, Parnell loyally backed Palin, but his style is quite a bit different. The new governor has a reputation for being low-key, open and collegial, which should help undo the Palin-era mistrust between the executive and legislative branches.
However, that doesn't mean that Republicans are ready to unite behind Parnell. Candidates already are gearing up for next year's gubernatorial race. Unless the new governor succeeds quickly, he may soon acquire the lame-duck status that his predecessor feared.
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