This week, Sarah Palin began trading barbs with Democrat Mark Begich and flirting with the idea of running for his U.S. Senate seat. If she actually took the plunge, it would be a dramatic return for someone known more for her politics on the national stage than her track record in Alaska. Opponents are already focusing on that absence from the state.
Begich was referring to the fact that Palin works for New York-based Fox News, owns a $2 million mansion in Arizona, and seems to make more appearances in the Lower 48 than in the 49th state.
So, is she a resident?
One of the biggest hallmarks — and privileges — of being an Alaskan is getting a Permanent Fund Dividend. The requirements for that are strict: With few exceptions, you have to spend at least 180 days in the state, and you need to plan on staying in Alaska indefinitely.
According to state documents, no one by the name of Sarah Palin applied for a PFD in 2012 or 2013. The last time someone with that name filed was in 2011. Meanwhile, the names Mark Begich, Mead Treadwell, and Joe Miller — all potential Senate opponents — are in this year’s database.
While Palin doesn’t show up, names of her family members appear intermittently. This year, there’s a Todd Palin, a Bristol, a Track, and a Trig. In 2012, those names were absent, but they were there in the 2011 database.
Even though Sarah Palin doesn’t seem to be collecting a check from the state, she’s still voting here.
“Since 2010, she has voted in the 2011 municipal election and special municipal election and the 2012 primary and general elections,” said Division of Elections Director Gail Fenumiai in an e-mail, adding that Palin remains registered in Alaska.
And of course, Palin still has a home in Wasilla, even if she’s not always there.
Whether Palin is currently a resident or not, it doesn’t actually affect her eligibility to run for office. While you have to reside in the state you’re running from at election time, the U.S. Constitution doesn’t specify how long you need to live there.
In the end, Palin can respond to quips about residency by saying she’s doing something very Alaskan: Living the comfortable life of a snowbird.