Republican presidential poll approaching

On Tuesday, Kenai Peninsula Republicans will be able to weigh in on their preferred presidential candidate.

The Presidential Preference Poll, the Alaska version of the caucus in other states, will take place in locations across the central peninsula on March 1. Alaska’s preference poll falls in line with the primaries in 13 other states and American Samoa’s Democratic caucus, commonly known as Super Tuesday.

Alaska Democrats will caucus on March 26.

The Presidential Preference Poll is organized and paid for by the Republican Party, so the volunteers will use hand-counted paper ballots to be fiscally responsible, said Randy Daly, a Kenai business owner who has helped to organize the poll. The workers will use an electronic system to update contact information, though.

Though each district has its own polling place, registered Republicans can go to any of the locations and their vote will still be counted. This provides a little more flexibility, so if someone is out in a particular area and needs to drop into a venue that isn’t their own, it will still be valid, Daly said.

“One of the reasons we have multiple locations is that they can always go to one of those polling places and vote,” Daly said. “We’ve been working at this for several months.”

The most popular candidates will have representatives from the state sent to support them at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, in July. Alaska is expected to send approximately 28 delegates to the convention. The number of delegates designated for each candidate is based on the percentage of the popular vote he or she wins, said Mike Tauriainen, the chair of the Alaska Republican Party for District 29, which encompasses the North Kenai area.

Tauriainen, who said he has twice been a delegate himself, said a nominations committee will select the delegates from a pool of applicants who are interested in representing a particular candidate.

“(The vote) will determine by district how the delegates are selected to go to the state convention, and the proportion of delegates going from the state convention to the national convention will be proportional to how the vote turns out statewide,” Tauriainen said.

Though there are still five Republican candidates in the running, only three contenders command a significant portion of Alaskans’ votes — Ted Cruz with 34 percent, Donald Trump with 27 percent and Marco Rubio with 17 percent, according to a January straw poll from the Alaska GOP. To qualify to receive delegates from Alaska at the Republican National Convention, candidates must receive at least 13 percent of the vote, according to the Alaska GOP. None of the other candidates received that much of the vote in the straw poll.

Financially, Alaskans overall have given more money to Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders and Republican candidate Ben Carson than any other candidates in the 2016 election cycle, according to the latest data from the Federal Election Commission.

However, in zip codes beginning with 996 — an area that includes all of the Kenai Peninsula, Kodiak Island, Valdez, Unalaska, the west side of Cook Inlet and much of the Mat-Su Valley — Cruz has received about $21,000 in contributions, more than Sanders but less than Carson. Sanders has received about $20,000 and Carson has received about $35,425 from the same area.

This particular race is novel to Daly. Usually the Democratic party is hailed for its candidate diversity, but the Republican 2016 panel boasted a female candidate, two Hispanic candidates, and a black candidate as well as a variety of economic backgrounds, he said.

Daly said he has been a Carly Fiorina supporter, but will now have to make another choice because she has suspended her campaign. Her story — starting out as a secretary, working her way up through a company and eventually deciding to run for office — inspired him, he said.

“In the past, I’d never felt that affinity with a particular candidate,” Daly said. “Now we have this plethora of choice, and you can find somebody that is very closely aligned with your feelings.”

The Republican Presidential Preference Poll will take place at the Soldotna Sports Complex, the Kenai New Life Assembly Church, the old Nikiski Senior Center, the Sterling Community Club, the Trail Side Building in Homer, the Anchor River Inn in Anchor Point and the Breeze Inn in Seward. Polls will be open from 3-8 p.m.

Reach Elizabeth Earl at elizabeth.earl@peninsulaclarion.com.

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