WASHINGTON - Republican Sarah Palin stepped down as governor of Alaska on Sunday, vowing in a farewell address to continue fighting for Alaskans but giving no hint on whether she will seek an elective office again.
The 2008 losing vice presidential nominee transferred power to new governor Sean Parnell during a ceremony in Fairbanks, Alaska, leaving office with her political future clouded by ethics probes, legal bills and dwindling popularity.
Palin's surprise announcement on July 3 that she would step down with 18 months to go in her term touched off speculation about her next move and whether she would be a U.S. presidential contender in 2012.
Some are still choosing not to hear why I made a decision to chart a new course to advance the state, Palin said in a campaign-style speech laying out her achievements in office.
She said she felt that she had a duty to avoid the unproductive politics-as-usual of a lame-duck session and that she could do more for Alaska without the restraints of office.
With this decision, now I will be able to fight even harder for you, what's right and for truth -- and I have never felt that you need a title to do that, Palin said.
She has cited a variety of reasons for quitting -- the burden of fighting nearly two dozen ethics charges, which she has dismissed as frivolous; her desire to avoid being perceived as a powerless lame-duck governor; and a higher calling, among others.
Palin burst onto the national scene last year when Republican presidential nominee John McCain picked her as his running mate in the campaign he eventually lost to Democrat Barack Obama.
Palin, who often complained that she and her family had been treated unfairly in the press, also took a parting shot at reporters in her farewell address.
Democracy depends on you, Palin said, That's why our troops are willing to die for you. So how about in honor of the American soldier you quit making things up?
Our new governor has a very nice family too, so leave his kids alone, Palin said, drawing applause from the audience.
Ethics woes have helped batter her image and approval rating. A new Washington Post-ABC poll puts her favorability rating at 40 percent, with 53 percent giving her an unfavorable rating. However Palin remains wildly popular among Republicans who share her conservative political views.
Warning Alaskans to stand against what she said were anti-hunting messages delivered by Hollywood celebrities, Palin offered a message of her own.
Patriots will protect our Second Amendment right to bear arms, she said Hollywood needs to know: we eat, therefore we hunt.
(Editing by Mohammad Zargham)