Alaska Dems to fight for Sanders at DNC as minor fissures emerge

Alaska Democratic Party Members seated by house district at the state convention in Anchorage. Photo: Zachariah Hughes, Alaska Public Media.
Alaska Democratic Party Members seated by house district at the state convention in Anchorage. Photo: Zachariah Hughes, Alaska Public Media.

Alaska Democrats spent the weekend in Anchorage picking delegates for the party’s national convention in Philadelphia this July and setting priorities for the year ahead.

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Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has 13 pledged delegates from Alaska, while Secretary Hillary Clinton received three. Alaska’s four super-delegates do not have to announce whom they support ahead of the national convention.

Sanders Campaign Director Jill Yordy was elected to be a national delegate on Saturday afternoon, in part because of a staunchly held promise to keep supporting Sanders throughout the contested national convention.

“I’m going to stand with Bernie the whole time,” Yordy said. “I cannot imagine myself flipping at all, at any point.”

Of the 523 delegates who came to University of Alaska Anchorage campus for the convention, 97 supported Clinton.

18-year-old Darrian Traw is sticking with Clinton because of her experience focusing on gender and ethnicity in policy-making. Even though she isn’t in the majority at the convention, Traw found the weekend’s overall passion was still exciting.

“This is really fun for me,” Traw said. “I thrive on frustration. But I like using the frustration from these kinds of events and using it to energize myself.”

Besides delegate selection, the convention is an opportunity for Democrats from all across the state to strategize and set a party platform.

Many see the Sanders campaign as bringing more progressive policies into the state party’s agenda. Agatha Erickson is a Sanders delegate from Anchorage. She thinks the party platform drafted reflects a more progressive stance than she’s yet seen, and those positions will be carried to the national convention.

“Maybe the math is against us,” Erickson said Saturday during the convention, referring to Sanders’ chance of securing the national nomination against Clinton. “But we also have a chance to change what the party focuses on. And this is not the end of the road for us. We have a movement here where we can make income inequality, native issues, social issues part of the core foundation of the national Democratic party.”

But the convention concluded Sunday without a vote to adopt the platform.

According to former legislator Ray Metcalfe, the party violated its own rules by adjourning without passing the drafted platform. Instead, party members opted to send the document back to a standing committee to finish editing and finalizing it.

“The platform is dead, unless party rules are violated,” Metcalfe said during a phone interview Monday.

The reason for moving the document over to a standing committee rather than opening it up to discussion on the convention floor, Metcalf believes, has to do with a controversial anti-corruption measure.

“We support legislation that requires elected officials to declare a conflict of interest and recuse themselves from voting on legislation appropriating Alaska’s resources to themselves, their family, their employers, their business partners, or their contributors,” the measure reads, according to an email from Metcalfe.

The controversy stems partially from disagreement over whether such a stuanch threshhold for conflicts of interest is realistic in such a small state, especially in rural areas.

Metcalfe thinks that by sending the document back to committee, opponents will get the chance to gut the measure.

“This party platform had all kinds of stuff that would have been advantageous to the Bernie Sanders agenda, in that it augured in the direction of getting dirty money out of politics,” Metcalfe said, adding that the move is without precedent.

But others close to the process dispute Metcalfe’s interpretation.

With so many people attending the convention, many of them for the first time, the newly written platform ballooned in size, from two pages to 32, according to Alaska Democratic Party Communications Director Jake Hamburg.

There was also a great deal of confusion among many in attendence about the process for adopting changes.

The convention was coming to a close Sunday afternoon after a day of running hours behind schedule when the Platform came up for discussion.

“The committee was asking for more time,” Hamburg said by phone after the convention. “They had a draft that was ready to be presented, but they were worried they would not have enough time to get it finalized at the convention.”

According to Hamburg, Metcalfe is wrong about procedural rules, saying there’s no violation of the bylaws, but that the party’s central committee will need to approve the document for it to be considered a valid platform.

Attendees also elected new party leaders. Anchorage’s Sheila Selkregg is the secured the national chairwomanship for Alaska. She hadn’t planned on running for the position until the night before but thinks Alaska and the country are at a crucial moment for pushing progressive policies to the forefront.

“I think Alaska could flip,” Selkregg said in an interview shortly after her victory. “We’ve been kind of held hostage to politics that were born in Texas, and it’s becoming more and more obvious.”

Though Selkregg is supporting Sanders, like many Alaska Democrats she says she will back either of the party’s candidates over the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald J. Trump.

The ADP Delegates to the DNC are: Mikki King Barker of Fairbanks, Katrina Domnick of Bethel, Olivia Garrett of Fairbanks,Traci George of Eagle River, Edward Alexander of Fort Yukon, Gregory Jones of Wasilla, Nathan Sidell of Palmer, George Wesley Sookiayak of Anchorage, Jill Yordy of Fairbanks, Taz Tally of Homer, Genevieve Mina of Anchorage, Peter Andrew of Dillingham, Diana Carbonell of Fritz Creek, Rep. Andy Josephson of Anchorage, Tamara Kleiner of Anchorage, and W. James Smallwood of Anchorage. 

The alternates are: Gavin Hudson of Metlakatla, D’Arcy Hutchings of Anchorage, and Charles Degnan of Unalakleet.

The super delegates are: Kim Metcalfe, Ian Olson, Larry Murakami, and Casey Steinau.


Zachariah Hughes reports on city & state politics, arts & culture, drugs, and military affairs in Anchorage and South Central Alaska.

@ZachHughesAK About Zachariah

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