The Alaska Democratic Convention ended on its third day Sunday afternoon on the University of Alaska Anchorage campus after approving a resolution demanding an end to the use of superdelegates.
Democrats said the turnout for this year’s convention was the largest ever. The entire third day of the meeting was mostly taken up by organizational discussion, including the party choosing its top officers and the 20 delegates who would represent Alaska at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia this July. Clashes soon emerged between supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders and supporters of Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton.
While regular party delegates are distributed among candidates in proportion to the state’s caucus or primary results, superdelegates are Democratic party leaders who are not bound to support the winner of a state’s primary content and can vote for any candidate they please at the DNC. The concept has been under fire lately by critics and media pundits who feel it gives party elites a disproportionate effect in choosing the Democratic presidential nominee without necessarily reflecting the popular vote.
— Janelle Perry (@janelleperry907) May 14, 2016
“This year especially, we’ve seen a lot of concern about super delegates and the weight they’re given in the party,” Jake Hamburg, communications director for the Alaska Democratic Party, told KTVA Alaska. “And some people would really like the delegation to reflect the will and the vote of the people.”
“I think the enthusiasm around our candidates has really motivated people to get involved,” Hamburg added, referring to the unusually large turnout.
The formal resolution adopted by the Alaskan Democrats is similar to a resolution passed by the Maine state convention to force superdelegates to vote in accordance with the state’s popular vote, and states that the Alaskan delegation “hereby invites other states’ Democratic Parties to join Alaska in pursuit of this reform,” and calls on the national convention to either eliminate the superdelegate system entirely or compel them to vote proportionally to their state’s primary results, according to U.S. Uncut.
In July, Alaska will have 20 delegates attending the DNC. Sixteen of them are regular pledged delegates, while the remaining four are superdelegates. Of the 16 regular delegates, 13 are committed to support Bernie Sanders, while the remaining three have pledged their support to Hillary Clinton. Of the four superdelegates, one has expressed support for Sanders, one for Clinton, and the other two remain uncommitted.
“In January, I decided as a Super Delegate, I was going to say I was uncommitted and I remained uncommitted until after the caucus, and at that time I thought it is appropriate for me to pledge my support to Sanders, to say I support him,” Larry Murakami, an Alaskan superdelegate, told KYUR.
— Alaska Democrats (@AlaskaDemocrats) May 14, 2016
The ongoing tensions between Clinton and Sanders supporters reportedly became palpable among accusations that the head of the Democratic National Committee, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, favors Clinton, and has been improperly steering funds toward the Clinton campaign. A number of Sanders supporters, estimated to be more than 25, walked out of her keynote speech on Saturday night in protest. Alaska Dispatch News characterizes the accusations.
“The party, in a monthly report filed Friday with the Federal Election Commission, said it raised $43,500 from the Hillary Victory Fund, with $10,000 donations from billionaires, including hedge fund manager S. Donald Sussman and Hyatt hotel heir J.B. Pritzker. In the same report, the Alaska Democratic Party said it transferred an equal amount of money, $43,500, to the Democratic National Committee — a move that, while legal, helps to effectively ‘obliterate’ federal limits on donations to the national committee, according to one campaign finance expert.”
Even with the controversies, attendees of the convention took advantage of having so many leading Democrats in a room together to establish a new platform for the party.
“The party platform is kind of a reflection of our values at this moment,” Hamburg said to KTVA Alaska. “With so many new people having joined the party this year, they’re really shaping [its] direction.”
Hamburg added that whether Clinton or Sanders is chosen for the Democratic nomination for president, he is confident a Democrat will win the general election in November. Fairbanks was also chosen as the location of the 2020 Alaska Democratic Convention.
[Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images]