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The DNC chairman opens the Alaska Democratic Convention in Juneau

From Sean Maguire

Updated: 15 Some minutes ago Published: 16 Some minutes ago

JUNEAU — The chairman of the Democratic National Committee was in Juneau Friday to help kick off the Alaska Democratic Convention.

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

The convention will meet this weekend in Juneau to select delegates for the national convention in Chicago. President Joe Biden is expected to be formally nominated as the party's presidential candidate at the party convention in August.

The Republicans held their state convention in Anchorage in April and elected Carmela Warfield as their new party leader.

Alaska Democratic Party officials said it has been years and possibly decades since a DNC chairman came to Alaska for the biannual state convention.

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

But it also reflects how important it is for Democrats nationally that Peltola keeps her seat. Republicans currently have a four-seat majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, and Democrats want to flip the House in November.

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

“Mary will win again this November,” he said to loud applause. “Yes, she will win because she gave people hope. But most importantly, she keeps her promises. She delivers.”

Peltola, who was scheduled to arrive in Juneau late Friday evening, currently has two Republican opponents. Lieutenant Governor Nancy Dahlstrom and businessman Nick Begich III, who also ran for Congress against Peltola in 2022.

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

Despite this fundraising advantage, Democratic Party officials expect the race to be close in November.

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

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

The 1964 election was the only time a Democratic presidential candidate won in Alaska and received the three Electoral College votes. That year, President Lyndon Johnson won in a landslide, winning all but six states against Republican Barry Goldwater.

Anna Harden

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