It’s an election year, so of course Bristol Palin is returning to “Dancing With the Stars” for the show’s first “all-star” cast.

Will Palin’s presence revive the controversy — and high ratings — of her original competition in Season 11? During fall 2010, with her politico mom campaigning not only for her dancing daughter but for tea party candidates, Bristol finished third. (The tea party did pretty well, too.)

But it was Bristol, known for being an unwed teen mom and not necessarily her dancing, who brought the buzz. A Wisconsin man shot his television in anger over her success. (No chill pills handy?) There were accusations — never proven — of voting conspiracies. 

And Twitter took off when mom — also known as 2008 vice presidential nominee and former Alaska governor Sarah Palin — showed up in the front row of the dance floor.

For the show’s 15th season, Palin will compete with other past stars. And the competition will be considerably stiffer.

The cast features a half dozen past winners, including athletes Emmitt Smith (Season 3), Shawn Johnson (Season 8), Apolo Anton Ohno (Season 4) and Helio Castroneves (Season 5). The winners of the first two seasons, Kelly Monaco and Drew Lachey, will also compete, along with past second-place finishers Kirstie Alley, Joey Fatone and Gilles Marini.

Three other former dancers will compete to be the 13th contestant; one will be selected by online voters in August. 

At a news conference after the announcement Friday, Palin apparently drew most of the questions from media, on everything from gay marriage to whether she’s making reality television a profession. E! Online reported that Palin grew a bit defensive at times during the briefing. (“Do I like to provide for my son? Yes, I do,” was one line E! reported.) 

In fact, reality TV appears to have become a family business. Mom Sarah had “Sarah Palin’s Alaska” in winter 2010. Bristol and her son are featured in “Bristol Palin: Life’s a Tripp” on Lifetime. And dad Todd Palin will be a contestant in “Stars Earn Stripes” this fall, a show featuring military exercises and missions.

Bristol’s reality TV experience could offer her more expertise this time around on the ballroom floor. But how will she be introduced during the show? Certainly, she’s no longer a “teen activist.” 

But in a year when all eyes are on politics, Palin’s selection is a surefire way to get “Dancing With the Stars” plenty of attention.


Sandra Fish teaches journalism at the University of Colorado and has reported on politics in Iowa, Florida and Colorado. Also, she loves “Dancing With the Stars.” Follow her on Twitter at @fishnette.