Alaska Democratic Party

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Alaska Democratic Party
Chairperson Michael Wenstrup
Senate leader Berta Gardner
House leader Chris Tuck
Headquarters Anchorage, Alaska
Ideology Liberalism
Social liberalism
National affiliation Democratic Party
Colors Blue
Seats in the Upper House
6 / 20
Seats in the Lower House
17 / 40

The Alaska Democratic Party is the affiliate of the Democratic Party in the state of Alaska, headquartered in Anchorage.

It is one of the two major parties in Alaska. At the federal level, Democrats hold no federal seats. At the state level Democrats hold 6 of the 20 seats in the State Senate and 17 of the 40 seats in the State House.[1]

Currently there are over 71,000 registered members of the Alaska Democratic Party.[2]

In the 2014 Election the Unity Ticket of Bill Walker and Byron Mallott defeated incumbent Governor Republican Sean Parnell and his running mate Dan Sullivan.[3] U.S. Senator Mark Begich lost by 6,000 votes to Republican Dan Sullivan.[4] U.S. Representative Republican Don Young defeated challenger Democrat Forrest Dunbar despite Young's series of missteps regarding comments he made about suicide.[5] In the State Senate Democrats failed to keep the open seat vacated by former State Senator Hollis French and lost 1 seat in the State Senate reducing the number of Democrats in the State Senate to 6.[6] In contrast to the State Senate, Democrats picked up 3 seats in the State House in districts 21 Matt Claman (West Anchorage), 5 Adam Wool (Fairbanks), and 36 Dan Ortiz (Ketchikan).[7]

In 2015 Former House Minority Leader Ethan Berkowitz made a late entry into the race for Mayor of Anchorage.[8] Berkowitz received the most votes in the April 7th Anchorage Mayoral Election but failed to secure enough votes to avoid a runoff against Amy Demboski.[9] In the May 5th runoff Election Ethan Berkowitz defeated Amy Demboski by more than 20%.


In 1949, the Young Democrats of Alaska was established as a group.[10] Except in U.S. Presidential elections, the Alaska Democratic Party was very successful in the early days of statehood and the late territory days (pre-1959), featuring such characters as territorial governor and later national senator Ernest Gruening. Gruening was one of only two Senators to vote against the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which authorized an expansion of U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. Bob Bartlett, also a democrat, and erstwhile secretary of the territory, was the first senator from Alaska, and remained a senator until his death in 1968. William A. Egan, also of the Alaska Democratic Party, was elected the first governor of the State of Alaska. Until the election of current governor Bill Walker, he was the only governor of Alaska (this notably includes former governor and Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin) of either party to have been born in Alaska. In the aftermath of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Ted Kennedy, Representing Senator Robert Kennedy (of Massachusetts), in the presence of Senator Gruening, gave a historic speech on the island-community of Sitka, Alaska[11][12] Democrat Mike Gravel was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1969, and stayed in for two terms. In 2008, he was a Democratic candidate for president of the United States. Following the oil boom in Alaska, and the construction of the trans-Alaska pipeline, many Americans from outside the State came to Alaska to live, this correlated with and possibly caused by (following a national trend [13]) a slow but distinct rightward shift in State politics. Particularly in the last two decades, however, it is not the Democratic party per se that has lost power, but the range of shifts in the due to "swing" votes.[14] In a further confusion of the recent degree of authority of the Democratic Party in the State of Alaska, a plethora of registered democrats voted for (ideologically Republican) incumbent Senator Lisa Murkowski during her write in campaign of the 2010 elections, presumably with the goal of defeating the Republican standart bearer and Tea Party candidate Joe Miller. Democrat Barack Obama won the Alaska Democratic caucuses, 2008, by a margin of more than three to one over Hillary Clinton, a higher percentage than any State in the union except Idaho. He then received 37.89 percent of the total statewide vote in the general election, and so lost the state to Republican John McCain, who selected former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his vice-presidential running mate. In 2012, President Obama lost the state to Republican Mitt Romney yet increased his percentage of the statewide vote to 40.81%. This was later used as evidence in a high-profile New York Times article detailing the complexity of Alaska politics and the difficulty in predicting the influence and elect-ability of Democrats within the State.[15]

No Democrat has carried Alaska in presidential elections since 1964 when Lyndon B. Johnson had his landslide victory over Barry Goldwater. Democratic President Barack Obama became the first sitting president ever to visit rural Alaska in 2015.

Party organization[edit]

Party leadership[edit]

The Executive Committee of the Alaska Democratic Party consists of the following individuals:[16]

  • Chair - Michael Wenstrup
  • Secretary - Lynda Zaugg
  • Treasurer - Geoff Bacon
  • Vice Chair Interior Female - Diane Fleeks
  • Vice Chair Interior Male
  • Vice Chair Matsu Male - Harvey Tanttila
  • Vice Chair Matsu Female (1st Vice Chair) - Casey Steinau
  • Vice Chair Southeast Male - Tom Schulz
  • Vice Chair Southeast Female - Cindy Spanyers
  • Vice Chair Rural Male - Charles Degnan
  • Vice Chair Rural Female - Angela Cox
  • Vice Chair Anchorage Female - Anita Thorne
  • Vice Chair Anchorage Female - Barbara Gazaway
  • Vice Chair Anchorage Male - Rod McCoy
  • Vice Chair Anchorage Male - Ray Metcalfe
  • Vice Chair North Gulf (Kenai Pen and H 35) Vacant
  • Vice Chair North Gulf (Kenai Pen and H 35) Vacant
  • Immediate Past Chair - Don Gray
  • National Committeewoman - Kim Metcalfe
  • National Committeeman Ian Olson
  • Finance Committee Chair - Rocky Plotnick
  • State House Representative - Chris Tuck
  • State Senate Representative Berta Gardner
  • Executive Committee At-Large - Deborah Vogt
  • Young Democrats Chair - Joe Samaniegogn
  • Senate Democratic Campaign Committee (SDCC) Co-Chair - Johnny Ellis
  • House Democratic Campaign Committee (HDCC) Co-Chairs - Scott Kawasaki / Chris Tuck
  • Young Democrats President - Laura Herman

Party functions[edit]

The Alaska Democratic Party performs many functions, all with the aim of helping Democrats to win elected office within the state.

These functions include:[2]

  • The organization and recruitment of citizens to go door to door for the party and promote the party issues and candidates.
  • The coordination of statewide campaigns for the general election every two years.
  • Working to get articles into newspapers, letters to the editors written, and callers on talk radio stations.
  • Operating the official Alaska Democratic Party website.
  • Sending out email announcements to Democrats regarding party activities.
  • Operating a state Voter File.


From the Alaska Democratic Party Platform, Nome, Alaska 2014:[17]

"Platform Summary Energy, Education, and Alaska Values:


Resource development:

Alaska's Constitution requires that we obtain the "maximum benefit" from resource development. Alaska Democrats support the bipartisan concept of the Owner State and will work to control our own resources.

Affordable Energy:

Delivering affordable energy to all Alaskans must be a top priority for the legislature.

Short Term:

Restore an oil production tax structure that rewards development and maximizes returns to Alaskans Support energy efficiency investments that pay for themselves; Prioritize energy investments.

Long Term:

Get natural gas to market and maximize the benefit for Alaskans; Expand renewable/alternative energy production.


Human capital is our most valuable natural resource. Investing non-renewable resource profits in our children will pay sustained dividends for Alaska.

Short Term:

Finish University of Alaska engineering facilities; Ensure classroom funding keeps pace with inflation.

Long Term:

Establish universal voluntary Pre-K; Reduce class sizes; Ensure vocational and technical training opportunities are available for all Alaska job seekers; Expand research capacity of the University of Alaska;


The state legislature should support Alaska values of self-reliance, subsistence, personal privacy, government restraint, and balanced budgets.

Short Term:

Support Medicaid Expansion; Protect the Permanent Fund Dividend; Protect Alaskans' right to self-reliance; Defend Alaskans' Right to Privacy; Protect Alaskans' property from government seizure; Support active duty and veteran service members; Re-establish the Alaska Commission on the Status of Women; Protect Alaska's Constitutional language prohibiting use of public funding for private schools;

Long Term:

Expand Denali Kid Care; Equality of Voting Access for rural and urban areas; Support active duty and veteran service members; Equal pay for equal work; Expand child care assistance for working families; Support local food production; Protect Alaskans' retirement savings."

Current issues[edit]

See also[edit]


External links[edit]