Alaska Democratic Party

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Alaska Democratic Party
ChairpersonCasey Steinau
Vice ChairBrent Watkins
House Majority LeaderSteve M. Thompson (in coalition with Republicans)
Senate Minority LeaderTom Begich
HeadquartersAnchorage, Alaska
IdeologyLiberalism
Progressivism
Social liberalism
Green politics
Political positionCentre to centre-left
National affiliationU.S. Democratic Party
ColorsBlue
Seats in the State Senate
7 / 20
[a]
Seats in the State House of Representatives
15 / 40
Website
www.alaskademocrats.org

The Alaska Democratic Party is the affiliate branch of the United States Democratic Party in the state of Alaska, headquartered in Anchorage.

It is one of the two major parties in Alaska, alongside the Republicans. Currently, the party holds no statewide offices in Alaska. In the state legislature meanwhile, Democrats hold 7 of the 20 seats in the state senate and 15 of the 40 seats in the state house. [1]

Currently there are over 71,000 registered members of the Alaska Democratic Party.[2]

History[edit]

In 1949, the Young Democrats of Alaska was established as a group.[3] Except in U.S. presidential elections, the Alaska Democratic Party was very successful in the early days of statehood and the late territory days (pre-1959), featuring such characters as territorial governor and later national senator Ernest Gruening. Gruening was one of only two senators to vote against the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which authorized an expansion of U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. Bob Bartlett, also a Democrat, and erstwhile secretary of the territory, was the first senator from Alaska, and remained a senator until his death in 1968. William A. Egan, also of the Alaska Democratic Party, was elected the first governor of the State of Alaska. Until the election of governor Bill Walker, he was the only governor of Alaska of either party to have been born in Alaska. In the U.S. House meanwhile, Democrat Ralph J. Rivers was the state's first representative from statehood until 1967.

In the aftermath of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Ted Kennedy, representing Senator Robert Kennedy (of New York), in the presence of Senator Gruening, gave a historic speech on the island-community of Sitka, Alaska. [4][5] Democrat Mike Gravel was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1968, and stayed in for two terms until his defeat in the Democratic primary in 1980 (Republicans ultimately picked up the seat in the general). In 2008 and 2019, he was a Democratic candidate for President of the United States. By the end of 1973, Gravel was the only Alaska Democrat remaining in federal office, as the state's House seat and other Senate seat had switched hands to Republicans. After Gravel left office, Democrats would not hold any seats in Alaska's congressional delegation again for almost three decades.

1972 U.S. House election[edit]

On October 16, 1972, Alaska's incumbent Democratic congressman Nick Begich went missing in a plane crash along with House Majority Leader Hale Boggs en route to Juneau from Anchorage. In spite of this, three weeks later, Begich won re-election to his seat. However, he was later declared dead on December 29 of that year after an intensive search effort. [6] Begich's body nor the plane he flew on were ever found. Begich is currently the most recent Democrat to serve Alaska in the U.S. House. In a special election held shortly thereafter in 1973, Republican Don Young (who had previously lost to the late Begich) won election to the seat, and has held it ever since.

Recent history[edit]

Following the oil boom in Alaska, and the construction of the trans-Alaska pipeline, many Americans from outside the State came to Alaska to live. This correlated with and possibly caused (following a national trend [7]) a slow but distinct rightward shift in State politics. Particularly in the last two decades, however, it is not the Democratic party per se that has lost power, but the range of shifts in the due to "swing" votes.[8] The most recent Democrat to serve as Governor of Alaska was Tony Knowles, from 1995 to 2003. In a further confusion of the recent degree of authority of the Democratic Party in the State of Alaska, a plethora of registered Democrats voted for (ideologically Republican) incumbent Senator Lisa Murkowski during her write in campaign of the 2010 election, presumably with the goal of defeating the Republican standard bearer and Tea Party candidate Joe Miller

Democrat Barack Obama won the 2008 Democratic caucuses in Alaska by a margin of more than three to one over Hillary Clinton, a higher percentage than any State in the union except Idaho. He then received 37.89 percent of the total statewide vote in the general election, losing the state to Republican John McCain, who had selected then-Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his vice-presidential running mate. In the same election year however, Democrat Mark Begich won election to the U.S. Senate by a narrow margin over longtime Republican incumbent Ted Stevens. Begich later lost re-election in 2014, [9] while the Democratic-endorsed independent candidate Bill Walker simultaneously defeated incumbent Republican Sean Parnell for Governor. [10]

In 2012, President Obama lost the state to Republican Mitt Romney yet increased his percentage of the statewide vote to 40.81%. This was later used as evidence in a high-profile New York Times article detailing the complexity of Alaska politics and the difficulty in predicting the influence and elect-ability of Democrats within the State.[11] Most recently in 2016, Republican candidate for President Donald Trump carried the state by around fifteen percentage points over Hillary Clinton, slightly worse than Obama's 2012 performance. No Democrat has carried Alaska in presidential elections since 1964 when Lyndon B. Johnson had his landslide victory over Barry Goldwater.

Since Byron Mallott resigned as Lieutenant Governor in 2018 after a scandal, [12] Democrats have held no statewide office in Alaska. On the flip side, Democrats do currently control the Alaska House of Representatives in a coalition with independent Republicans, [13]while Republicans hold a supermajority in the Alaska State Senate with one independent Democrat caucusing with them.

Party organization[edit]

Party leadership[edit]

The executive committee of the Alaska Democratic Party consists of the following individuals:[14]

  • Chair - Casey Steinau
  • Secretary - Katherine Pfeiffer
  • Treasurer - Carolyn Covingston
  • Vice Chair Interior Female - Diane Fleeks
  • Vice Chair Interior Male - Luke Hopkins
  • Vice Chair Matsu Male - Pete LaFrance
  • Vice Chair Matsu Female (1st Vice Chair) - Patrica Chesbro
  • Vice Chair Southeast Male - Justin Parish
  • Vice Chair Southeast Female - Cindy Spanyers
  • Vice Chair Rural Male - Charles Degnan
  • Vice Chair Rural Female -
  • Vice Chair Anchorage Female - Anita Thorne
  • Vice Chair Anchorage Female - Laura Herman
  • Vice Chair Anchorage Male - James Smallwood
  • Vice Chair Anchorage Male - James Wright
  • Vice Chair North Gulf - Brent Watkins
  • Vice Chair North Gulf - Karyn Griffin
  • Immediate Past Chair - Michael Wenstrup
  • National Committeewoman - Sheila Selkregg
  • National Committeeman - Ed Wesley
  • Finance Committee Chair - R
  • State House Representative - Chris Tuck
  • State Senate Representative Berta Gardner
  • Executive Committee At-Large - Willie Anderson
  • Young Democrats President - Jed Drolet
  • Senate Democratic Campaign Committee (SDCC) Co-Chair -
  • House Democratic Campaign Committee (HDCC) Co-Chairs -

Party functions[edit]

The Alaska Democratic Party performs many functions, all with the aim of helping Democrats to win elected office within the state.

These functions include:[2]

  • The organization and recruitment of citizens to go door to door for the party and promote the party issues and candidates.
  • The coordination of statewide campaigns for the general election every two years.
  • Working to get articles into newspapers, letters to the editors written, and callers on talk radio stations.
  • Operating the official Alaska Democratic Party website.
  • Sending out email announcements to Democrats regarding party activities.
  • Operating a state Voter File.

Ideology[edit]

From the Alaska Democratic Party Platform, Nome, Alaska 2014:[15]

"Platform Summary Energy, Education, and Alaska Values:

ENERGY:

Resource development:

Alaska's Constitution requires that we obtain the "maximum benefit" from resource development. Alaska Democrats support the bipartisan concept of the Owner State and will work to control our own resources.

Affordable Energy:

Delivering affordable energy to all Alaskans must be a top priority for the legislature.

Short Term:

Restore an oil production tax structure that rewards development and maximizes returns to Alaskans Support energy efficiency investments that pay for themselves; Prioritize energy investments.

Long Term:

Get natural gas to market and maximize the benefit for Alaskans; Expand renewable/alternative energy production.

EDUCATION:

Human capital is our most valuable natural resource. Investing non-renewable resource profits in our children will pay sustained dividends for Alaska.

Short Term:

Finish University of Alaska engineering facilities; Ensure classroom funding keeps pace with inflation.

Long Term:

Establish universal voluntary Pre-K; Reduce class sizes; Ensure vocational and technical training opportunities are available for all Alaska job seekers; Expand research capacity of the University of Alaska;

ALASKA VALUES:

The state legislature should support Alaska values of self-reliance, subsistence, personal privacy, government restraint, and balanced budgets.

Short Term:

Support Medicaid Expansion; Protect the Permanent Fund Dividend; Protect Alaskans' right to self-reliance; Defend Alaskans' Right to Privacy; Protect Alaskans' property from government seizure; Support active duty and veteran service members; Re-establish the Alaska Commission on the Status of Women; Protect Alaska's Constitutional language prohibiting use of public funding for private schools;

Long Term:

Expand Denali Kid Care; Equality of Voting Access for rural and urban areas; Support active duty and veteran service members; Equal pay for equal work; Expand child care assistance for working families; Support local food production; Protect Alaskans' retirement savings."

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ One Democratic Senator, Lyman Hoffman, caucuses with the Alaska Republican Party

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Partisan composition of state houses".
  2. ^ a b "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-01-25. Retrieved 2011-11-08.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  3. ^ "akyd".
  4. ^ "Senator Kennedy talks to the Alaska Democratic Party about civil rights". Archived from the original on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2015-10-24.
  5. ^ "Senator Edward M. Kennedy speaking at the Democratic Convention in Sitka, 1968".
  6. ^ "The Mysterious disappearance of Cessna N1812H". Retrieved 2019-09-26.
  7. ^ James Fallows. "Why This Is Not Just 'Washington Dysfunction,' in 1 More Graph". The Atlantic.
  8. ^ "Introducing the 2014 Cook Political Report Partisan Voter Index".
  9. ^ "AP: Sullivan beats Begich in Alaska". POLITICO.
  10. ^ Jaime Fuller (19 November 2014). "A bipartisan 'unity ticket' actually won this year. That's rare". Washington Post.
  11. ^ "Alaska Might Be More Friendly to Democrats Than It Appears". The New York Times. 21 August 2014.
  12. ^ "The plot thickens on Mallott resignation". mustreadalaska.com. Retrieved 2019-09-26.
  13. ^ "Multi-partisan House Majority takes shape". alaskapublic.org. Retrieved 2019-09-26.
  14. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-01-25. Retrieved 2011-11-08.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  15. ^ http://static1.squarespace.com/static/54bee0c9e4b0441ce96c4681/t/554ce677e4b068c342175df9/1431103095164/Alaska+Democratic+Party+Platform.pdf

External links[edit]