Clinton and Sanders campaigns gear up for Alaska Democratic caucuses

With the dust barely settled from Alaska's Super Tuesday Republican presidential nomination contest, the two main candidates for the Democratic nomination, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, are revving up their campaigns in Alaska for a monthlong sprint to the state Democratic caucuses.

Alaska Democrats will send 20 delegates to the national Democratic convention July 25 in Philadelphia, 16 of them committed to candidates based on the results of the state caucuses. The statewide caucuses, organized by the Alaska Democratic Party, are set for Saturday, March 26.

On Wednesday, the Clinton campaign announced the opening of a state campaign headquarters in Midtown Anchorage. Former Gov. Bill Sheffield, a Democrat who often hosts campaign fundraisers, will be among those attending a Thursday grand opening event, according to a statement from the campaign.

"From protecting the progress made under President Obama by defending the Affordable Care Act, to building ladders of opportunity for Alaska Natives, Hillary Clinton is the fighter Alaska families need in the White House," Gwendolyn Rocco, a Brooklyn-based spokeswoman for the Clinton campaign, wrote in an email.

Rocco said paid Clinton staffers have been in the state for a few weeks to start organizing the campaign.

Sen. Bernie Sanders' campaign also opened an office this week, in downtown Fairbanks. An open house event is planned for Saturday night. Jill Yordy, the state coordinator for Sanders' campaign, said the campaign plans to open more offices in Alaska.

After Super Tuesday, Clinton had twice as many delegates as Sanders, and Yordy said the Vermont senator will be working to win as many states as possible, including Alaska.


"I think that in general, Bernie's stances on the issues really resonate with Alaskans, particularly the emphasis on raising the minimum wage, on making sure the systems we have in place work for the people," Yordy, a Fairbanks resident, said in a phone interview.

Outside the official campaign, Sanders supporters organized a march in Fairbanks last weekend. In Anchorage, one supporter, 63-year-old Lindl Hubbard, said she's attended about six sign-waving events in recent weeks.

An Alaska Dispatch News poll in January found twice as much support for Sanders over Clinton among voters with no political party. But the poll also found Clinton had an edge with registered Democrats.

The last Alaska Democratic caucus was on Super Tuesday in 2008. Barack Obama easily defeated Clinton in that contest, winning about 75 percent of the roughly 9,000 votes cast.

Under the Democratic presidential caucus format, voters divide up and stand with a group supporting their candidate. At a Democratic state convention in May, delegates will be assigned in proportion to the votes each candidate received, according to the Alaska Democratic Party.

Only registered Democrats, or voters who register as Democrats at the caucus site, can participate in the state caucus. Caucus locations and preregistration information can be found on the Alaska Democratic Party's website.

Devin Kelly

Devin Kelly was an ADN staff reporter.