Robocalls and rallies ahead of Alaska Dems’ caucus Saturday

Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton at the Democratic Presidential debate at St. Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire, Dec. 19, 2015. (Creative Commons photo by Ida Mae Astute/ABC)

Alaska Democrats pick their presidential nominee 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. 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 an Anchorage pop radio station. Sen. Sanders’ wife, Jane, arrived in Anchorage on Thursday for campaign events and meetings with tribal leaders. She was originally slated to head to Dillingham, but was weathered out.

Alaska isn’t a winner-takes-all primary state, so while there may be a clear winner Saturday, support could also be split down the middle.

“After the caucus tomorrow we should have a really good idea of who Alaska Democrats prefer to be the Democratic presidential nominee,” said Alaska Democratic Party Communication Director Jake Hamburg.

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 so-called superdelegates, 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 listed in Unalakleet 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 earlier this month, that’s because it is.

“Really at their heart, caucuses are meetings of neighbors, and they’re organized and run by local party volunteers. And it’s more than just stepping into a voting booth and leaving,” Hamburg said.

The Democrats are considering doing away with the caucus model in the future.

For now, party organizers are anticipating a large turnout, given the exceptionally high national interest in primary contests this year. Hamburg said he expects parking at West High in Anchorage, 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. Saturday.

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