Sarah Palin’s Mother-In-Law: Considering Voting For Barack Obama

Gov. Sarah Palin

Gov. Sarah Palin

I wonder what it means for Sarah Palin to have a mother-in-law who favors Barack Obama over John Mccain? Cindy McCain’s sister, Kathleen Hensley Portalski intends to vote for Obam instead of her brother in law, John McCain. There doesn’t appear to be much political loyalty in these families.

US Magazine

Sunday August 31, 2008

Governor Sarah Palin during a Technology Conference in Anchorage, Alaska
Clark James Mishler/Getty Images
Buzz up!The mother-in-law of John McCain’s new running mate Sarah Palin, enjoys hearing Barack Obama speak and hasn’t decided which way she’ll be voting in the upcoming presidential election the New York Daily News reported Sunday.

“I’m not sure what [Sarah] brings to the ticket other than she’s a woman and a conservative. Well, she’s a better speaker than McCain,” Faye Palin told the New York Daily News. “People will say she hasn’t been on the national scene long enough.”

Faye added “But I believe she’s a quick study.”

The 44-year-old — who was elected governor just two years ago after serving as mayor of Wasilla (pop. 6,715) — will be the first woman nominated by the Republican Party to run on a national ticket.

Palin and her husband Todd, a veteran oil-field worker and commercial fisherman, 43, are parents to five children, the youngest of whom was born in April and has Down syndrome.

“We don’t agree on everything. But I respect her passion,” Faye said. “Being pro-life is who Sarah is.”

The Obama campaign issued a sharp critique of Palin on Friday, saying, “Today, John McCain put the former mayor of a town of 9,000 with zero foreign policy experience a heartbeat away from the presidency. Governor Palin shares John McCain’s commitment to overturning Roe v. Wade, the agenda of Big Oil and continuing George Bush’s failed economic policies — that’s not the change we need, it’s just more of the same.”

It’s not the first time the governor has had to prove herself.

Faye said people doubted Palin when she ran for City Council but Sarah proved she had “singular focus.”

“Sarah was out there with [then-young son] Track, pulling him around from house to house in a wagon,” Faye said.

Born in Idaho and a graduate of the University of Idaho, Palin is the first female governor of Alaska and its youngest. She was also the runner-up in the 1984 Miss Alaska pageant.

Meanwhile, Cindy McCain’s half sister is planning on voting for Obama.

“I’m not voting for McCain,” Kathleen Hensley Portalski told Us recently. “I have a different political standpoint.”

Portalski’s son Nathan, a 45-year-old aerospace machinist, is also backing Obama.

“I wouldn’t vote for John McCain if he was a Democrat,” he tells Us. “I would not vote at all before I’d vote for him.”

“I question whether Cindy is someone I’d want to see in the White House as first lady,” he added.

Cindy McCain’s Half Sister ‘Angry’ She’s Hidden

Kathleen Portalski Hensley and her father Jim Hensley

Kathleen Portalski Hensley and her father Jim Hensley

Kathleen Hensley Portalski

Kathleen Hensley Portalski

National Public Radio

by Ted Robbins


Listen Now [4 min 16 sec] add to playlist


Ted Robbins/NPR
Kathleen Hensley Portalski displays newspaper clippings of her father in World War II, as well as snapshots of herself as a child with her father.


Courtesy Nicholas Portalski
Portalski is shown with her late father, Jim Hensley, who also was Cindy McCain’s father.

Read the original profile on Cindy McCain.


Ted Robbins/NPR
Nicholas Portalski, whose mother is McCain’s half sister, says it’s “very, very hurtful” that he and his mother haven’t been recognized.

All Things Considered, August 18, 2008 · Last Tuesday, NPR broadcast a story about Cindy McCain’s business and charity work. In it, Ted Robbins described McCain as the only child of Jim Hensley, a wealthy Arizona businessman. The next morning, NPR received an e-mail from Nicholas Portalski of Phoenix, who heard the story with his mother.

“We were listening to the piece about Cindy McCain on NPR, All Things Considered, and it just struck us very hard,” Portalski said.

His mother, Kathleen Hensley Portalski, is also Hensley’s daughter.

The Portalski family is accustomed to hearing Cindy McCain described as Hensley’s only child.

She’s been described that way by news organizations from The New Yorker and The New York Times to Newsweek and ABC.

McCain herself routinely uses the phrase “only child,” as she did on CNN last month. “I grew up with my dad,” she said then. “I’m an only child. My father was a cowboy, and he really loved me very much, but I think he wanted a son occasionally.”

McCain’s father was also a businessman — and twice a father.

“I’m upset,” Kathleen Portalski says. “I’m angry. It makes me feel like a nonperson, kind of.”

Who Is Kathleen Hensley Portalski?

Documents show Kathleen Anne Hensley was born to Jim and Mary Jeanne Hensley on Feb. 23, 1943. They had been married for six years when Kathleen was born.

Jim Hensley was a bombardier on a B-17, flying over Europe during World War II.

He was injured and sent to a facility in West Virginia to recuperate. During that time, while still married to Mary Jeanne, Hensley met another woman — Marguerite Smith. Jim divorced Mary Jeanne and married Marguerite in 1945.

Cindy Lou Hensley was born nine years later, in 1954.

She may have grown up as an only child, but so did her half sister, Kathleen, who was raised by a single parent.

Portalski says she did see her father and her half sister from time to time.

“I saw him a few times a year,” she says. “I saw him at Christmas and birthdays, and he provided money for school clothes, and he called occasionally.”

Jim Hensley also provided credit cards and college tuition for his grandchildren, as well as $10,000 gifts to Kathleen and her husband, Stanley Portalski. That lasted a decade, they say. By then, Jim Hensley had built Hensley and Co. into one of the largest beer distributorships in the country. He was worth tens, if not hundreds, of millions of dollars.

Sole Inheritor To Hensley’s Estate

When Hensley died in 2000, his will named not only Portalski but also a daughter of his wife Marguerite from her earlier marriage. So, Cindy McCain may be the only product of Jim and Marguerite’s marriage, but she is not the only child of either.

She was, however, the sole inheritor of his considerable estate.

Kathleen Portalski was left $10,000, and her children were left nothing. It’s a fact Nicholas Portalski says his sister discovered the hard way.

“What she found in town — on the day of or the day before or the day after his funeral — was that the credit card didn’t work anymore,” Nick says.

The Portalskis live in a modest home in central Phoenix. Kathleen is retired, as is her husband. Nicholas Portalski is a firefighter and emergency medical technician looking for work.

They say it would have been nice if they were left some of the Hensley fortune.

They also say they are Democrats, but Nicholas Portalski says he had another reason for coming forward.

“The fact that we don’t exist,” he says. “The fact that we’ve never been recognized, and then Cindy has to put such a fine point on it by saying something that’s not true. Recently, again and again. It’s just very, very hurtful.”

Kathleen Portalski says she’d like an acknowledgment and an apology.

NPR asked the McCain campaign — specifically, Cindy McCain — to comment or respond. Neither replied.