Sean Parnell

Sean Randall Parnell (born November 19, 1962) is an American attorney and politician. He succeeded Sarah Palin in July 2009 to become the tenth governor of Alaska and served until 2014.[1][2] Parnell was elected governor in his own right in 2010 with 59.06% of the vote, as the largest percentage margin of any Alaska governor since statehood.[3] In 2014, he narrowly lost his bid for re-election and has since returned to work in the private sector.[4] He is a member of the Republican Party.

Sean Parnell
Former Governor of Alaska Sean Parnell.jpg
10th Governor of Alaska
In office
July 26, 2009 – December 1, 2014
LieutenantCraig Campbell
Mead Treadwell
Preceded bySarah Palin
Succeeded byBill Walker
9th Lieutenant Governor of Alaska
In office
December 4, 2006 – July 26, 2009
GovernorSarah Palin
Preceded byLoren Leman
Succeeded byCraig Campbell
Member of the Alaska Senate
from the 1st district
In office
January 13, 1997 – January 13, 2001
Preceded bySteve Rieger
Succeeded byJohn Cowdery
Member of the Alaska House of Representatives
from the 17th district
In office
January 11, 1993 – January 12, 1997
Preceded byConstituency established
Succeeded byJohn Cowdery
Personal details
Sean Randall Parnell

(1962-11-19) November 19, 1962 (age 57)
Hanford, California, U.S.
Political partyRepublican (1980–present)
Sandra Scebold
(m. 1987)
EducationPacific Lutheran University (BA)
University of Puget Sound (JD)

Born in Hanford, California, Parnell is a graduate from the University of Puget Sound's School of Law (now known as Seattle University School of Law). He practiced law before being elected to the Alaska House of Representatives in 1992 and he continued to work in private legal practice while he was a member of the Alaska House and later, the Alaska Senate. He served two terms in the Alaska House from 1993 to 1997 before he was elected to one term in the Alaska Senate from 1997 to 2001. Parnell continued his legal career in the private sector, working as an attorney and as the state government relations director for Phillips Petroleum, now known as ConocoPhillips, and an attorney at the law firm Patton Boggs.

Returning to public service, Parnell won the Republican primary race for lieutenant governor in 2006 and became Palin's running mate in her 2006 gubernatorial campaign, where the Palin and Parnell ticket defeated former Democratic Governor Tony Knowles. Parnell was sworn in as lieutenant governor of Alaska in December 2006 and later assumed the governorship after Palin resigned in July 2009. Parnell was elected to a full term as governor in 2010, defeating former State Representative Ethan Berkowitz in the general election. Parnell is the first unelected Alaska governor to be elected in his own right.[5] He was narrowly defeated for a second term in 2014 by the "unity ticket" of Republican-turned-Independent Bill Walker and Democrat Byron Mallott.

Early lifeEdit

Parnell was born in Hanford, California, the elder of two sons of Thelma Carol (née Liebherr) and Kevin Patrick "Pat" Parnell.[6] As children, Parnell and his younger brother, Schoen (pronounced "Shane"), were raised in a close-knit family. Two of his paternal great-grandparents were Norwegian.[7]

Sean's father, Pat, was stationed at Fort Richardson, near Anchorage, Alaska, while he served in the U.S. Army during statehood years (1957–1959),[8] and returned to Alaska with his family in 1973, establishing residence in Anchorage. Sean Parnell was 10 years old at the time.

Parnell's mother worked as a high school teacher for more than twenty-five years. She taught at Bartlett High School and East Anchorage High School, the latter a short distance from their home. Both of Parnell's parents were entrepreneurs, owning a retail photocopy and office supply business together in Anchorage for more than twenty-five years. Parnell worked in the family business as a teenager and during his college years.

In 1980, Pat Parnell, a Democrat, ran against incumbent Don Young for Alaska's sole seat in the United States House of Representatives, taking 25.82% of the vote.[9]


Parnell graduated from East Anchorage High School in 1980, earned a bachelor's degree in business administration, B.B.A., in 1984 from Pacific Lutheran University, and a J.D. degree in 1987 from the University of Puget Sound School of Law (now known as Seattle University School of Law). He is admitted to the bar in both Alaska and Washington D.C.[10]

Family lifeEdit

Parnell married his college girlfriend Sandy in 1987 and the couple returned to Anchorage, where Parnell began practicing law. The Parnells' daughters, Grace and Rachel, were born and raised in Anchorage.[11]

Sandy Parnell became known for her involvement with the governor in his Choose Respect initiative – a campaign to raise awareness and educate communities around Alaska about domestic violence and sexual assault. They regularly visited domestic violence shelters and spoke with survivors of abuse and trafficking.[12]

Grace is a professional photographer and Rachel is a university student pursuing a history degree.[13][14]

Legal careerEdit

Sean Parnell worked as an attorney in the private sector from 1987 through 2003, between 2005 and 2006, and again following his tenure as governor, beginning in 2015. For nine years of that time, he owned his own law practice. In the 1990s, he continued in private practice while he served in the Alaska House and the Alaska Senate. When Parnell left the Alaska Senate, he became director of government relations in Alaska for Phillips Petroleum, which later became ConocoPhillips.[15] In 2005, he joined the law firm Patton Boggs, where he exclusively practiced law.[16] Patton Boggs represented ExxonMobil in the Exxon Valdez oil spill litigation, though Parnell had no role in that representation or litigation.[17] Parnell left Patton Boggs less than two years later on December 3, 2006.

In October 2015, Parnell and his wife Sandy, moved their residence to Palmer, Alaska, where he returned to working as an attorney in private practice and opened a law firm, specializing in business law, contracts and real estate.[18]

Political careerEdit

Alaska LegislatureEdit

Parnell was first elected to the Alaska House of Representatives, in 1992 at the age of twenty-nine. He represented a district in Anchorage that included at that time, Independence Park, Dimond Blvd., and the Southport/Bayshore areas of Anchorage. After his first year in the state house, Parnell was named the "Most Effective Freshman Legislator" by his colleagues and those who worked in the State Capitol.[19] This recognition arose because Parnell was known for taking the time to help other legislators hone and pass their legislation and in doing so, learned the legislative process and developed relationships with his colleagues. In 1994, Parnell was re-elected to represent South Anchorage in the Alaska House. Throughout his four years in the Alaska House of Representatives, Parnell was known for his work on the House Finance Committee and in the fight against domestic violence and sexual assault in Alaska. During those years he sponsored and passed seminal legislation known as the Domestic Violence Prevention Act of 1996 that was Alaska's first consistent, comprehensive statewide policy on this issue.

In 1996, Parnell ran for and was elected to a seat in the Alaska Senate and became a member of the Energy Council and served on the powerful Senate Finance Committee.[20] In 1999 and 2000, he became a member of the Senate Republican Majority's Leadership when his Senate colleagues chose him to serve as the co-chair of the Senate Finance Committee.

In 2000, Parnell finished his first and only term in the state senate, choosing not to seek re-election. He cited his commitment to his family as his reason and returned to work in the private sector.[21]

Six years later, in 2006, Parnell was elected lieutenant governor of Alaska, along with Alaska Governor Sarah Palin.[22] In July 2009, when Governor Palin resigned her position, Parnell became governor and finished the term of office.[23] In 2010, Parnell won a four-year term as governor in his own right.[24]

Lieutenant governorEdit

Governor Sarah Palin with Lieutenant Governor Sean Parnell in 2006

In 2005, Parnell ran and won in the Republican primary to become lieutenant governor. Afterward, in the general election, he was paired with Sarah Palin as her running mate. In Alaska, the lieutenant governor candidates run separately from the governor candidates in the primary election race, but after the primaries, the nominees for governor and lieutenant governor run together as a slate. Palin and Parnell were elected with 48.33% of the vote over former Governor Tony Knowles and State Representative Ethan Berkowitz's 40.97% share of the vote.[25]

2008 congressional campaignEdit

On March 14, 2008, Parnell began his campaign to take on embattled 18-term member of Congress Don Young in the August 26 Republican primary.[26]

Parnell was endorsed by Sarah Palin, National Review magazine, and the fiscally conservative 501(c)4 organization Club for Growth.[27][28][29]

On July 31, 2008, Parnell told Roll Call he would not drop out of his race against Young to run against U.S. Senator Ted Stevens, who had been indicted.[30]

Parnell lost the primary for the U.S. House seat. The margin between incumbent Young and Parnell was narrow, and the winner was not immediately clear. The result released on September 18 showed Young winning by 304 votes. Parnell said he trusted the integrity of the work of the Division of Elections, an agency he oversaw as Alaska's lieutenant governor. He said in a statement, "While a recount could change the outcome of this exceedingly close election – normal human error being what it is – such a result is unlikely. As such, I do not believe it justifies an expenditure of taxpayer funds."[31]

Governor of AlaskaEdit

Ascent to officeEdit

On July 26, 2009, halfway through her term as governor, Palin resigned. Parnell replaced her becoming Alaska's tenth governor in accordance with the Alaska Constitution.[1] Craig Campbell, commissioner of Alaska's Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, succeeded Parnell as lieutenant governor after Palin first named Joe Schmidt, commissioner of corrections as a replacement for Parnell and Schmidt resigned from the second-in-line position on July 6, 2009.[32][33]

2010 campaignEdit

Parnell ran for a full term as governor in 2010. In the primary, he faced off against Bill Walker, a former mayor of Valdez, Alaska and aide to former governor Walter J. Hickel, and Ralph Samuels, a retiring member of the Alaska House of Representatives. Although Walker seemed to gain traction towards the end based on the issue of building a natural gas pipeline, Samuels and Walker split the anti-Parnell vote[citation needed] and Parnell won the nomination. He and Mead Treadwell, who had won the August primary for lieutenant governor, faced off against the Democratic ticket of former House majority leader and 2008 congressional nominee Ethan Berkowitz and Diane Benson.[34] Parnell-Treadwell eventually defeated Berkowitz-Benson by over ten points.[35]

2014 campaignEdit

Parnell ran for re-election in 2014.[36] Former Republican Bill Walker challenged Parnell as an independent politician, and merged his campaign with Democratic Party gubernatorial nominee Byron Mallott, who became Walker's running mate as an independent.[37] He conceded the election to Bill Walker on November 15, 2014.

Parnell drew criticism during his re-election campaign over his support of billions in tax reductions for the petrochemical industry as well scandals regarding accusations of coverups of sexual abuse scandals, cronyism, corruption and whistleblower suppression, within the Alaska National Guard.[38][39][40]

Out of 19 incumbent Republican governors running for re-election, Parnell and Pennsylvania's Tom Corbett were the only ones who lost the 2014 elections.[41]


  1. ^ a b Palin stepping down this month. CNN, July 3, 2009.
  2. ^ Blumenthal, Mitchell L.; Phillips, Kate (July 3, 2009). "Palin to Resign as Governor of Alaska". The New York Times.
  3. ^ "State of Alaska Division of Elections 2010 General Election Results". State of Alaska Division of Elections. November 30, 2010. Archived from the original on 2015-09-23. Retrieved 2015-08-03.
  4. ^ "State of Alaska Division of Elections 2014 General Election Results". State of Alaska Division of Elections. November 25, 2014. Archived from the original on September 23, 2015.
  5. ^ Election 2010: Alaska Results – NPR 10-3-2010 Archived 2010-11-03 at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ Metcalfe, Peter M., ed. (1991). "Legislative Branch". Alaska Blue Book (Tenth ed.). Juneau: Alaska Department of Education, Division of State Libraries, Archives and Museums. p. 111.
  7. ^ Sean Parnell genealogical profile,; accessed November 7, 2014.
  8. ^ "Parnell 2014". Retrieved 2015-08-05.
  9. ^ [1], Statistics of the Presidential and Congressional Election of November 4, 1980, page 3, Clerk of the House of Representatives; retrieved October 9, 2014.
  10. ^ Governor Sean Parnell profile,; accessed November 7, 2014.
  11. ^ [2]; Retrieved January 27, 2016.
  12. ^ "Meet Sandy Parnell the first lady who you wished you had met sooner". Retrieved 2016-01-27.
  13. ^ "Grace Adams". Retrieved 2016-01-27.
  14. ^ "Parnell's Honesty vs Walker's Cynicism". The Juneau Empire. Retrieved 2016-01-27.
  15. ^ Yardley, William. "Sean Parnell news". The New York Times. Retrieved May 23, 2010.
  16. ^ "Sean Parnell: Alaska's New Governor". Time. Retrieved 2015-08-03.
  17. ^ "Who is Sean Parnell?". Juneau Empire. Archived from the original on 2010-12-17. Retrieved 2010-08-29.
  18. ^ "Valley Newcomer Parnell Returns to Legal Roots". Alaska Dispatch News. Retrieved 2016-01-27.
  19. ^ "Senator Sean Parnell Leaving Legislature, Proud of Budget Work, Domestic Violence Laws". Alaska Republicans. Retrieved 2016-01-27.
  20. ^ Alaska Lieutenant Governor Sean Parnell's profile Archived 2006-06-20 at the Wayback Machine,; accessed November 7, 2014.
  21. ^ Retrieved 2016-01-27. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  22. ^ "State of Alaska – 2006 General Election". November 7, 2006. Retrieved 2016-01-27.
  23. ^ "Palin's Resignation Shocks Alaska and Nation". Anchorage Daily News. Retrieved 2016-01-27.
  24. ^ "Parnell Wins His Own Term as Alaska Governor". Anchorage Daily News. Retrieved 2016-01-27.
  25. ^ "State of Alaska – 2006 General Election". November 7, 2006. Retrieved 2016-01-27.
  26. ^ Josh Kraushaar, "Alaska Lieutenant Governor Announces Primary Run Against Young", CBS News, March 14, 2008.
  27. ^ Josh Kraushaar, "Club for Growth endorses challenger to Young",, June 6, 2008; accessed August 4, 2008.
  28. ^ R.A. Dillon, "Washington Anti-Earmark Group Endorses Parnell"[permanent dead link], Daily News Miner, Fairbanks, AK, June 6, 2008; accessed November 7, 2014.
    NOTE: Partially accessed by archives search on January 5, 2011; full access requires registration and fee.
    "He also has the backing of fiscally conservative Gov. Sarah Palin."
  29. ^ "Don Young's Wrong Way", National Review, April 1, 2008; accessed August 4, 2008.
  30. ^ Shira Toeplitz, "Parnell Won't Switch to Alaska Senate Race" Archived 2011-06-09 at the Wayback Machine, Roll Call, July 31, 2008; accessed August 4, 2008.
  31. ^ . The Juneau Empire. September 19, 2008 Archived from the original on February 6, 2016. Retrieved January 27, 2016. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  32. ^ Archived 2016-02-06 at the Wayback Machine; The Juneau Empire, July 7, 2009; Retrieved January 27, 2016
  33. ^ [3], State of Alaska Department of Law, July 10, 2009; Retrieved January 27, 2016
  34. ^ MSNBC. "Gov Palin to resign her office". KTUU-TV. Retrieved 2009-07-03.
  35. ^ "Election Night 2010: Incumbents Parnell and Young Re-Elected, Possibly Murkowski",, March 10, 2010.
  36. ^ Pat Forgey; Alaska Dispatch (May 4, 2013). "Neither Democrats nor Republicans shocked Parnell is running again".
  37. ^ "Walker, Mallott to join forces in governor's race". Alaska Dispatch News. September 1, 2014. Retrieved September 2, 2014.
  38. ^ Jill Burke and Richard Mauer,, "Parnell defends handling of Alaska National Guard dysfunction, plans more firings", Alaska Dispatch News, October 2, 2014; retrieved October 3, 2014.
  39. ^ Jill Burke and Richard Mauer, Parnell waited years to take direct action on National Guard misconduct, Alaska Dispatch News, October 1, 2014; retrieved October 3, 2014.
  40. ^ Caslon Hatch, "Debate draws standing-room-only crowd" Archived 2015-06-02 at the Wayback Machine,, July 23, 2014; retrieved October 3, 2014.
  41. ^ Prokop, Andrew (2014-11-06). "25 out of 28 incumbent governors on the ballot this week won reelection". Vox. Retrieved 2020-01-05.

External linksEdit

Political offices
Preceded by
Loren Leman
Lieutenant Governor of Alaska
Succeeded by
Craig Campbell
Preceded by
Sarah Palin
Governor of Alaska
Succeeded by
Bill Walker
Party political offices
Preceded by
Sarah Palin
Republican nominee for Governor of Alaska
2010, 2014
Succeeded by
Mike Dunleavy