DNC chair kicks off the Alaska Democratic Convention in Juneau

JUNEAU — The chair of the Democratic National Committee was in Juneau on Friday to help launch the Alaska Democratic Convention.

Democrats are campaigning this year to reelect U.S. Rep. Mary Peltola, a Democrat who was first elected to Congress in 2022 to replace the late-Rep. Don Young, a Republican who served for decades. Democrats are also campaigning to form bipartisan coalitions in the state House and Senate.

The convention will meet over the weekend in Juneau to choose delegates to serve at the party’s national convention in Chicago. President Joe Biden is set to officially be nominated as the party’s candidate for president at the convention in August.

Republicans held their state convention in April in Anchorage, and elected Carmela Warfield as the new party chair.

Alaska Democratic Party officials said it had been years, and potentially decades, since a DNC chair had come to Alaska for the biannual state party convention.

“I think, generally, it’s a signal that the Alaska party is really strong,” said Lindsay Kavanaugh, the executive director of the Alaska Democratic Party.

But it also reflects the importance to Democrats nationally of Peltola holding her seat. Republicans currently have a four-seat majority in the U.S. House, and Democrats want to flip the House in November.


Jaime Harrison, DNC chair and a former U.S. Senate candidate for South Carolina, told the Juneau audience that it was critical to reelect Peltola, the first Democrat to hold Alaska’s sole seat in the U.S. House for 49 years and the first Alaska Native in Congress.

“Mary’s going to win again this November,” he said to loud applause. “Yes, she’s going to win because, people, she gave folks hope. But most importantly, she’s keeping her promises. She is delivering.”

Peltola, who was set to arrive in Juneau late Friday evening, currently has two Republican opponents. Lt. Gov. Nancy Dahlstrom and businessman Nick Begich III, who was also a candidate for Congress against Peltola in 2022.

In the first quarter of this year, Peltola had far out-raised her Republican rivals. She had raised $1.7 million by mid-April, compared to $262,000 for Dahlstrom, and $216,000 for Begich.

Despite that fundraising advantage, Democratic Party officials expect the race in November to be tight.

The 2024 election will be the first time Alaska voters elect a president using ranked-choice voting. Harrison told Alaska Democrats that with ranked-choice voting, Biden “really has a chance to win this state.”

Biden is trailing Republican former President Donald Trump in national polls, including in key battleground states.

The 1964 election was the only time that a Democratic candidate for president won in Alaska and took its three electoral college votes. That year, President Lyndon Johnson won in a landslide and carried all but six states against Republican Barry Goldwater.

Sean Maguire

Sean Maguire is a politics and general assignment reporter for the Anchorage Daily News based in Juneau. He previously reported from Juneau for Alaska's News Source. Contact him at smaguire@adn.com.