Sarah Palin (R)
Having clobbered unpopular incumbent Gov. Frank Murkowski in a summer primary, Sarah Palin (R) won the Alaska governor's race by defeating the best-known Democratic politician in the state, former governor Tony Knowles.
Palin, 42, former mayor of the booming town of Wasilla, presented herself as an outsider Republican, challenging what she called a cozy relationship between the "old guard" of both political parties and Alaska's powerful energy industry.
A former point guard for Wasilla's championship high school basketball team, Palin was nicknamed "Sarah Barracuda" for aggressive and relentless play. In a state where Republicans dominate, the mother of four used those skills to carve out a distinctive niche as a face both fresh and fierce.