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Palin keeps low-profile after surprise news

WHERE is Sarah Palin?

A day after surprising even her closest friends by announcing she would step down as Alaska governor more than a year before her term was up, the former Republican vice presidential candidate was keeping a low profile. Her spokesman, David Murrow, said Palin told him she was flying to Juneau, the state capital, for the Fourth of July weekend, but he wasn't sure what activities she planned to attend.

The governor didn't show up at a 50th anniversary statehood celebration. She wasn't in the Capitol's office. And no one answered the door at the governor's mansion.

The only sign of Palin came on the social networking site Twitter, where she indicated she was watching the Juneau Fourth of July parade: "Lots of celebration of Independence & Alaska's 50th Anniversary of Statehood." But not even the parade director knew she had attended, and only a few people spotted her on the sidelines.

That left mounting questions about her plans for the future shrouded in mystery. Will she lay the groundwork for a 2012 presidential bid? Will she find a high-profile place in the private sector, maybe on the speech circuit? Will she drop out of the limelight and focus on her five children?

Her constituents, for one, wanted to know, especially in Juneau, where she has struggled to win over residents.

"I think she owes it to Alaskans to tell us why," said state Sen. Dennis Egan, the son of Alaska's first governor, Bill Egan.

In fact, the only peep out of Palin yesterday came on the social networking site Twitter, where she told military families: "Most special July 4 shout-out to you! Spouses, kids, parents, families of troops - THANKS for supporting our true heroes."

At the same time, Palin informed Murrow early yesterday that someone using the name "exgovsarahpalin" on Twitter was spreading a false rumor that there was to be a party at her suburban home in Wasilla, outside Anchorage. Palin was afraid her home would be mobbed, and security was dispatched, Murrow said.

Juneau parade director Jean Sztuk said Palin rode a convertible last year and was invited again to this year's event. She never responded, but parade organizers drew up banners in case she showed and was willing to take part.

As the last of the parade's clowns and marching bands headed past her, Sztuk gave up on Palin. "What governor wants to be at the end of the parade?" she asked.

On Friday, Palin was in Wasilla, where she called a last-minute news conference to announce that not only was she not going to seek re-election as Alaska's mayor, she wasn't going to stick around and finish out her term.

She plans to step down on July 26, and Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell will take her place.

Palin, Republican John McCain's running mate in the 2008 presidential race, hasn't given many details about her future. But she has hinted she has bigger plans in mind, leaving open the possibility she would seek the presidency in 2012.

Friday afternoon, on Twitter, she promised supporters more details: "We'll soon attach info on decision to not seek re-election ... this is in Alaska's best interest, my family's happy ... it is good. Stay tuned."

But so far, there have been no new details. And even her closest friends say they don't know what she's up to.

Egan, hosting a 50th anniversary statehood ceremony, said he was disappointed Palin decided not to finish out her term, which was scheduled to end in 2010.

"It's sad she abandoned us at this critical time," said Egan, who was appointed by Palin to an open seat on the last day of the legislative session in April, after a protracted battle with Senate Democrats.

Palin's departure can't come soon enough for Laurel Carlton, a waitress at the Capital Cafe in the Baranof Hotel, where the city's political movers and shakers meet every morning before walking a few blocks to the Capitol.

"I think she has a game plan that's not Alaska, and hasn't been for awhile," Carlton said.

She noted Palin has a book deal, and seems headed for the national stage.

"If you're really not going to stay and do your job every day, you should leave anyway, and so the sooner the better so somebody can step in and actually do the job," Carlton said.

And as far as Carlton is concerned, Palin doesn't need to explain why she's leaving.

"We don't care. We just want her gone," she said.

Palin, whose popularity in Alaska has waned amid ongoing ethics investigations, gave many reasons for stepping down: She was tired of the tasteless jokes aimed at her five children, including her son Trig, who has Down syndrome; she felt she could do more in another, still-to-be-defined role. And she didn't want to wait out the rest of her term after deciding not to run for re-election.

McCain didn't rule out a return to politics for his former running mate, saying yesterday he believes "she will continue to play an important leadership role in the Republican Party and our nation." He gave no other details.

Even Parnell, who plans to run for re-election after finishing out Palin's term, said he was shocked at first when he learned of his boss' decision.

"But then as she began to articulate her reasons, I began to understand better," he said. "And nobody - unless they've been in her position and understood what she has gone through and dealt with and who she is as a person - really understands."


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