Democrats gather in Nome to strategize for fall

Byron Mallott. (Photo by Casey Kelly/KTOO)

In addition to keeping Begich in office, Democrats are focusing on Byron Mallott’s campaign for governor. (File photo by Casey Kelly/KTOO)

The Alaska Democratic Party ended its weekend convention in Nome Sunday with resolutions on issues ranging from Alaska Native rights to same-sex marriage and came away with a full lineup of candidates for key November races.

Pushing the issue to the front of their platform, the party affirmed the right of Alaska Native voters to get election materials in their native language—an option already in place for voters but one former Unalakleet representative Chuck Degnan says doesn’t go far enough.

“There needs to be accurate translations so that voters can know what is being voted on. There’s enough dialectic differences in Alaska that they need to localize it through the tribes. And the state needs to learn how to work with tribes,” Degnan says.

Aside from Nome democrats, the convention also saw delegates from communities like Teller, St. Michael, and White Mountain. Secretary and treasurer of the Nome Democrats, Nancy Green, says, poor weather and an unusually warm spring, meant many who planned to attend didn’t make it.

“I hear that, it is the hunting season, it is time for me to do some subsistence stuff, and it is, we’re caught right in the middle of that,” Green says. “But they do email me and I forward them information. Yeah, we needed more participation, yeah, and it’s kind of spendy, too, to come.”

Some unaffiliated voters were also among the crowd of about 75 people.

Voters like retired aviator and veteran Chuck Wheeler.

“Yeah it’s kind of nice they come to Nome. If it was a Republican convention I’d be here. I just want to see where they’re coming from. It’s all about money. Networking, who you know,” Wheeler says.

Beyond updating where they’re coming from, the convention was also looking at where the party is going, particularly in the November elections. Beyond supporting the re-election of U.S. Senator Mark Begich, the real focus of the convention was Byron Mallott, the former Juneau mayor who’s running against incumbent Governor Sean Parnell.

But there’s a third man who wants to be Governor—independent candidate Bill Walker—but few at the convention would say what Walker’s presence in the now-three-way-race could mean for Mallott’s chances in November.

Until then, it’s who Mallott will run with that remains an open question.

“Alaska has strong possibilities for increasing participation of all Alaskans, and access to early voting for all Alaskans, and I will use the bully pulpit of Lieutenant Governor, to do that over and over again, as your Lieutenant Governor,” says political newcomer Bob Williams.

Williams is a Mat-Su Valley math teacher who’s running for Lieutenant Governor. He was at the convention in Nome, but his opponent in the race was not—Senate Minority Leader Hollis French said he was at a long-scheduled family reunion in Florida.

While the party’s nomination for lieutenant governor will come in the August primary, the party did formally endorse Forrest Dunbar—the Anchorage lawyer vying to take Alaska’s only U.S. House seat from long-serving Congressman Don Young.

In addressing the convention, Dunbar rallied the base by affirming the party’s stance on key issues—like supporting the repeal of the new oil tax system passed last year, expanding Medicaid, and supporting same-sex marriage—issues the Democrats hope differentiate their candidates from Republicans.

“It’s our year for people who believe that we should have control over our own resources, its our year for people who think we need to defend Medicare and social security and expand Medicaid, it’s our year for people who believe that gay rights are human rights and that you should be able to marry the person who you love.”

With their platform set and candidates for most major races in place, the Democrats left Nome facing a summer of heavy campaigning in preparation for vital races come the fall.

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