Alaska Democrats are picking their presidential nominee on Saturday. The party has 42 sites set up in anticipation of a spirited caucus contest between former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.
This week, Alaska Democrats started getting calls from a familiar voice.
“Hi this is Bill Clinton. I’m calling on behalf of Hillary For America,” starts a recorded phone message. “I know you don’t love these calls, which is why I wish I could be in Alaska to talk with you in person.”
In advance of the party’s Alaska caucus, both Clinton and Sanders have started recruiting supporters. On top of the robocalls, Clinton took questions earlier in the week on Anchorage pop radio station KGOT.
Sen. Sanders’ wife, Jane, arrived in Anchorage Thursday for campaign events and meetings with tribal leaders. She was originally slated to head to Dillingham Friday, but was weathered out, according to Jill Yordy, coordinator for the Sanders campaign in Alaska.
The primary in Alaska isn’t a winner-take-all contest. While there may be a clear winner on Saturday, support could also be split down the middle, according to Alaska Democratic Party Communication Director Jake Hamburg.
“After the caucus tomorrow we should have a really good idea of who Alaska Democrats prefer to be the Democratic presidential nominee,” Hamburg said by phone Friday.
Of the 20 delegates that’ll go to the Democratic National Convention in July, 16 will be pledged proportionately to Sanders or Clinton, with four “super delegates,” who are can opt to support either of the presumptive nominees. Alaska’s state-convention in May will pick who those specific delegates will be.
Caucus locations are spread across the state, from Barrow to Ketchikan. Registered Dems will come together at sites ranging from schools and community halls to a breakfast cafe in Nome, and a site in Unalakleet listed as “The Home of Chuck Degnan.” From there, registered Democrats discuss, debate, and realign their support until each of the state’s 40 House districts assigns delegates proportionately to candidates.
If it sounds vastly more confusing than the Republican Presidential Preference Poll that took place March second: that’s because it is.
“At their heart, caucuses are meetings of neighbors,” Hamburg said. “They’re organized and run by local party volunteers. And it’s more than just stepping into a voting booth and leaving.”
The state’s Democrats are considering doing away with the caucus model in the future.
For now, party organizers are anticipating a large turn-out, given the exceptionally high national interest in primary contests this year. Hamburg expects parking at Anchorage’s West High, where 13 House districts are convening, to be filled up in advance of 10 a.m., when caucusing starts for most locations across the state.
The party is hoping detailed final results will be in by 4 p.m. on Saturday.