Politics of Alaska

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Alaska is often characterized as a Republican-leaning state with strong libertarian tendencies.[1] Local political communities often work on issues related to land use development, fishing, tourism, and individual rights.

Political party strength in Alaska has varied over the years. The communities of Juneau, Sitka, downtown and midtown Anchorage, the areas surrounding the College/University of Alaska Fairbanks campus and Ester and The "Alaska Bush" - rural, sparsely populated Alaska - stand out as Democratic strongholds, while the Kenai Peninsula, Matanuska-Susitna Valley, parts of Anchorage, and Fairbanks (including North Pole and Eilson Air Force base), Ketchikan, Wrangell, and Petersburg serve as the Republican Party electoral base. As of 2004, well over half of all registered voters have chosen "Non-Partisan" or "Undeclared" as their affiliation,[2] despite recent attempts to close primaries.

History[edit]

Although Alaska entered the union as a Democratic state, since the early 1970s Alaska has been characterized as Republican-leaning.[3] Local political communities have often worked on issues related to land use development, fishing, tourism, and individual rights. Alaska Natives, while organized in and around their communities, have been active within the Native corporations. These have been given ownership over large tracts of land, which require stewardship.

When the United States Congress, in 1957 and 1958, debated the wisdom of admitting it as the 49th state, much of the political debate centered on whether Alaska would become a Democratic or Republican-leaning state. Conventional wisdom had it that, with its penchant for new ideas and dependence on the Federal Government largess for basic needs, it would become a Democratic stronghold, about which Republicans, and the Republican Administration of Dwight Eisenhower had reservations. Given time, those fears proved unfounded. After an early flirtatious period with liberal politics, the political climate of Alaska changed quickly once petroleum was discovered and the federal government came to be seen as 'meddling' in local affairs. Still, despite its libertarian leanings, the state regularly takes in more federal money than it gives out, a fact that can be attributed at least partially to its equal representation in the United States Senate.

Six Republicans and four Democrats have served as governor of Alaska. In addition, Republican Governor Wally Hickel was elected to the office for a second term in 1990 after leaving the Republican party and briefly joining the Alaskan Independence Party ticket just long enough to be reelected. He subsequently officially rejoined the Republican party in 1994.

Unique features[edit]

Alaska was formerly the only state in which possession of one ounce or less of marijuana in one's home was completely legal under state law, though the federal law remains in force.[4] Alaska's appeals court ruled in 2003 that Alaska's constitutional guarantee of privacy took precedence over any attempts at marijuana prohibition, overruling a 1990 voter initiative that criminalized possession of all amounts of the drug. The court ruled that voters, who approved the criminalization measure, did not have authority to change the state constitution protecting one's privacy.[5]

The state has an independence movement favoring a vote on secession from the United States, with the Alaskan Independence Party.[6]

State[edit]

The Alaska Legislature consists of a 20-member Senate serving 4-year terms and 40-member House of Representatives serving 2-year terms. Since 1994, it has been dominated by conservatives, generally Republicans (although currently there is a bipartisan working group in the Senate). Likewise, recent state governors have been mostly conservatives, although not always elected under the Republican Party banner. Republican Wally Hickel was elected to the office for a second term in 1990 after leaving the Republican Party and briefly joining the Alaskan Independence Party ticket just long enough to be reelected. He subsequently officially rejoined the Republican fold in 1994.

Recent and ongoing U.S. Justice Department probes continue into Alaskan politics. Stevens, who had served since 1968, was caught up in a larger probe that included Federal Bureau of Investigation raids in summer 2007 at the offices of six Alaska legislators, including Stevens' son, Ben, who was then the president of the state Senate, and a raid on Senator Ted Stevens' personal home.[7] Stevens drew the FBI and Justice Department attention over his home renovation project done in 2000, which more than doubled the size of his home. Bill Allen, founder of VECO Corporation, an oil supplying and engineering company, oversaw the work at Senator Steven's home. Bill Allen has since pleaded guilty to bribing Alaska state legislators. Alaska lawmakers went as far as embroidering ball caps with the letters CBC, for "Corrupt Bastards Club." The Washington Post describes more into the political scandals with its article entitled "I'll sell my soul to the Devil" from a tape quote from Pete Kott, former Republican speaker of the Alaskan legislature.[8] On October 27, 2008, Stevens was convicted on seven counts of making false statements. His conviction was reversed,[9] six months after he lost the election to the Democrat, because of misconduct by prosecutors.

Federal[edit]

Alaska's sole U.S. Representative, Don Young, was re-elected to his 21st consecutive term in 2012. His seniority in House makes him one of the most influential Republican House members. His position on the House Transportation Committee allowed him to parlay some $450 million to the Gravina Island Bridge and the Knik Arm Bridge, both derided as "bridges to nowhere".

Alaska's current members of the United States Congress are two Republicans and one Democrat. Republican Senator Ted Stevens was appointed to the position following the death of Senator Bob Bartlett in December 1968[10] and was consistently re-elected with overwhelming margins of victory until his narrow defeat in the 2008 election by Democrat Mark Begich. As the longest-serving Republican in the Senate—sometimes nicknamed a "senator for life"[11]—Stevens was a crucial force in gaining Federal money for the state.[citation needed]

Because of its population relative to other U.S. states, Alaska has only one member in the U.S. House of Representatives. This seat is currently being held by Republican Don Young, who was re-elected to his 21st consecutive term in 2012. Alaska's At-large congressional district is currently the world's second-largest legislative constituency by area, behind only the Canadian territory of Nunavut.

Alaska's United States Senators belong to Class 2 and Class 3. In 2008, Democrat Mark Begich, mayor of Anchorage, defeated long-time Republican senator Ted Stevens. Stevens had been convicted on seven felony counts of failing to report gifts on Senate financial discloser forms one week before the election. The conviction was set aside in April 2009 after evidence of prosecutorial misconduct emerged.

Republican Frank Murkowski held the state's other senatorial position. After being elected governor in 2002, he resigned from the Senate and appointed his daughter, State Representative Lisa Murkowski as his successor. She won full six-year terms in 2004 and 2010. Notably, Lisa Murkowski was re-elected in the latter year in a long shot write-in campaign after being ousted in the primary by Tea Party-backed challenger Joe Miller and Democrat Scott McAdams. The campaign made national headlines, and Murkowski became the first Senator to be elected in a write-in campaign since Strom Thurmond of South Carolina in 1954. Since winning re-election, Murkowski's voting record has notably become more moderate.

President[edit]

Presidential elections results
Year Republican Democratic
2012 54.80% 164,676 40.81% 122,640
2008 59.42% 193,841 37.89% 123,594
2004 61.07% 190,889 35.52% 111,025
2000 58.62% 167,398 27.67% 79,004
1996 50.80% 122,746 33.27% 80,380
1992 39.46% 102,000 30.29% 78,294
1988 59.59% 119,251 36.27% 72,584
1984 66.65% 138,377 29.87% 62,007
1980 54.35% 86,112 26.41% 41,842
1976 57.90% 71,555 35.65% 44,058
1972 58.13% 55,349 34.62% 32,967
1968 45.28% 37,600 42.65% 35,411
1964 34.09% 22,930 65.91% 44,329
1960 50.94% 30,953 49.06% 29,809

In presidential elections, the state's Electoral College votes have been most often won by a Republican nominee. Only once has Alaska supported a Democratic nominee, when it supported Lyndon B. Johnson in the landslide year of 1964, although the 1960 and 1968 elections were close. No state has voted for a Democratic presidential candidate fewer times. President George W. Bush won the state's electoral votes in 2004 by a margin of 25 percentage points with 61.1% of the vote.

On August 29, 2008 Republican Presidential nominee, John McCain named Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin as the GOP Vice-Presidential nominee. His campaign was not successful in winning the 2008 presidential election.

Alaska regularly supports Republicans in presidential elections and has done so since statehood. Republicans have won the state’s electoral college votes in all but one election that it has participated in (1964). No state has voted for a Democratic presidential candidate fewer times. Alaska was carried by Democratic nominee Lyndon B. Johnson during his landslide election in 1964, while the 1960 and 1968 elections were close. Since 1972, however, Republicans have carried the state by large margins. In 2008, Republican John McCain defeated Democrat Barack Obama in Alaska, 59.49% to 37.83%. McCain's running mate was Sarah Palin, the state's governor and the first Alaskan on a major party ticket. Obama lost Alaska again in 2012, but he did capture 40.8% of the state’s vote in that election, making him the first Democrat to garner 40% of the statewide vote since 1968. Out of the six states in the nation that cast a higher percentage of votes in favor of Obama in 2012, Alaska gave Obama his best performance, with a net gain of 7.5 percentage points.

In 2008, Governor Sarah Palin became the first Republican woman to run on a national ticket when she became John McCain's running mate. She continued to be a prominent national figure even after resigning from the governor's job in July 2009.

Political parties[edit]

The state has an independence movement favoring a vote on secession from the United States, with the Alaskan Independence Party.[6]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ National Journal Alaska State Profile
  2. ^ "State of Alaska". Gov.state.ak.us. Archived from the original on February 25, 2008. Retrieved June 2, 2010. 
  3. ^ "National Journal Alaska State Profile". Election.nationaljournal.com. Retrieved June 2, 2010. 
  4. ^ Volz, Matt (July 11, 2006). "Judge rules against Alaska marijuana law". The Seattle Times (Frank A. Blethen). Archived from the original on June 17, 2008. Retrieved May 22, 2008. 
  5. ^ Noy v. Alaska, 83 P.3d 538, 543 (2003).
  6. ^ a b "Questions And Answers - About Alaskan Independence". Alaskan Independence Party. 2006. 
  7. ^ http://www.adn.com/news/politics/fbi/story/9179115p-9095789c.html | Federal agents raid Sen. Ted Stevens' Girdwood home
  8. ^ Vick, Karl. "I'll Sell My Soul to the Devil". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 4, 2010. 
  9. ^ Washington Post, 8 April 2009, "Judge Orders Probe of Attorneys in Stevens Case"
  10. ^ Stevens' official biography
  11. ^ "An Ethics Quagmire" - Washington Spectator

External links[edit]