Democrats headed to caucus

  • By Kelly Sullivan
  • Tuesday, March 22, 2016 9:55pm
  • News

Kenai Peninsula Democrats will have a chance to make their first mark on the 2016 presidential election Saturday.

The Alaska Democratic Presidential Caucuses start at 10 a.m. Saturday in 42 locations around the state, including Seward, Kenai, Soldotna, and Homer. The Challenger Learning Center of Alaska is designated as the House District 30 location, but will also serve as a satellite caucus for those living closer to the central Kenai area, but are registered in Homer or Seward.

“This is the chance to help turn the tide in Alaska,” said Amy Jackman, a volunteer who will sign up new voters at the event. “Predominantly we see more Republicans to get out in these types of votes and right now it is crucial for Democrats to be heard.”

Jackman, an avid Bernie Sanders supporter, stressed the importance of local Democrats, unaffiliated voters or members of other parties turning out Saturday. For those who are not already registered or want to change parties for the 2016 election, this is their chance, she said.

“This is the chance to change the vote,” Jackman said. “I am very concerned about the Republican Party. With the way that it stands now it is going to implode. It is not viable at this point. It is being torn apart at the seams.”

So far, Bernie Sanders is the candidate that has received the most financial contributions in Alaska with $179,112 overall, and $30,364 from contributors living in areas with a zip code beginning with 996, which includes the Kenai Peninsula, according to the Federal Election Commission. Hillary Clinton has received $70,391 statewide, $13,538 of which is coming from areas that fall within the 996 zip codes, and Martin Joseph O’Malley has received $1,725 statewide, none of which is documented as coming from areas that fall within the 996 zip codes.

Sharon Waisanen, caucus leader for the region and chair of the District 30 Democrats, said she is expecting a higher turnout this year, although there would be no easy way to predict that. In 2012, when President Barack Obama was up for re-election, a few dozen Democrats attended the central Kenai caucus, but in 2008 when the race was more competitive, roughly 350 turned up, she said.

Waisanen has served as caucus leader for more than a decade, and said since Democrats began placing votes in Alaska in the late 1980s the population has shifted statewide, and now roughly 70 percent of voters are Republican.

That estimate is somewhat reflected in local party events.

More than 2,500 registered Republicans showed up to vote March 1 at the designated central Kenai Peninsula locations for the Republican Presidential Preference Poll.

The Republican delegates were determined by a popular vote, a different format than will be carried out at the Democratic caucuses.

This weekend, the Kenai Peninsula’s 35 delegates from the State House District will be distributed for the State Democratic Convention May 13-15 in Anchorage. That will determine which state delegates will go in late July to the Democratic National Convention that will be held in Philadelphia.

Democrats will have four choices during the fan out this year, Waisanen said, which is the breaking up of caucus participants into groups based on presidential preference. The candidates are Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton and Roque De La Fuente. There will be a section for uncommitted members who would not prefer any of the three main candidates, she said.

Groups representing a candidate must receive at least 15 percent of the total number of members in attendance to receive any delegates.

If one group receives less than 15 percent, another fan out will occur and those in the group with less than the threshold will have to chose a different group, Waisanen said.

Anyone in attendance must be 18 years old by June 24 to participate.

Jackman said she believes the Democrats have a real chance this year.

She added that it doesn’t matter what candidate they are supporting as long as Democrats turn out Saturday. No matter what people feel, the caucus is a chance to show up and learn more, and is how Alaskans can take part in the process.

“If you are a Hillary Clinton supporter this is also your time to be heard,” Jackman said. “If you are an independent or another party, whether you support Bernie or not, that is another way for your voice to be heard.”

Reach Kelly Sullivan at kelly.sullivan@peninsulaclarion.com.

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