Palin says goodbye to Alaska

Sarah Palin steps down as Alaska governor, leaving her political plans unclear and refusing to address speculation of a 2012 presidential bid.

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Sarah Palin stepped down on Sunday as Alaska governor, leaving her long-term political plans unclear and refusing to address speculation she would seek a 2012 presidential bid. In a fiery campaign-style speech, Ms Palin said she was stepping down to take her political battles to a larger if unspecified stage and avoid an unproductive, lame duck status. "With this decision, now, I will be able to fight even harder for you, for what is right, and for truth. And I have never felt that you need a title to do that," Ms Palin said to raucous applause from about 5,000 people gathered at Pioneer Park in Fairbanks.

Her first order of business as a private citizen is to speak Aug 8 at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California. She also wants to campaign for political candidates from coast to coast, and continue to speak her mind on the social networking site Twitter, one of her favourite venues to reach out to supporters. Free speech was a theme of her farewell speech at a crowded picnic in Fairbanks, as the 45-year-old outgoing governor scolded "some seemingly hellbent on tearing down our nation" and warned Americans to "be wary of accepting government largesse. It doesn't come free".

She also took aim at the media, saying her replacement, Sean Parnell, "has a very nice family too, so leave his kids alone." And she told the media: "How about, in honour of the American soldier, you quit makin' things up?" She didn't elaborate, but Ms Palin said when she announced her resignation July 3 that she was tired of the media focus on her family and felt she had been unfairly treated by reporters and bloggers.

Later on Sunday, Ms Palin posted her final message on her official Alaska account on the social networking site Twitter. "Thank you Alaska!" she wrote. "I love you. God bless Alaska. God bless the U.S.A." Friend and foe alike have speculated that Ms Palin may host a radio or TV show, launch a lucrative speaking career or seek higher office in Washington. Ms Palin has not ruled out any of those options, and her political action committee, SarahPAC, has raised more than $1 million, said Meghan Stapleton, a spokeswoman for the committee and the Palin family.

* AP