Parades showed volunteer army strength for campaigns



Across the state, the powerhouses of political campaigns showed how strong they are in the “boots on the ground” department during Fourth of July parades.

Snapshots from Fairbanks to Ketchikan indicate that gubernatorial candidate Mike Dunleavy took the parade grounds in terms of most volunteer numbers, with more than 300 Alaskans taking part for Dunleavy with their trucks, candy, and multi-colored signs in at least eight parades, including Fairbanks, North Pole, Ester, Homer, Kenai, Chugiak, Juneau, Ketchikan.

Other gubernatorial campaigns were more modest, except for Gov. Bill Walker. His press release said he had people in parades in 13 communities.

Gov. Bill Walker watches the Mount Marathon runners in Seward on July 4, 2018.

Walker’s supporters marched in Bethel, Homer, Juneau, Kenai, Ketchikan, Kotzebue, Nome, Sitka, Unalaska, Valdez, Wasilla, Willow, and Yakutat. In Seward, Walker didn’t have an entry in the parade, but pressed the flesh and had a booth where volunteers gathered signatures for his petition to appear on the November General Election ballot.

Walker had a booth in Anchorage, where volunteers also gathered signatures.

In the biggest parades — Seward, Wasilla, Fairbanks, Juneau, and Anchorage — the sitting governor didn’t attempt to have a parade entry. With the exception of Willow and Wasilla, Walker’s campaign stuck to smaller, rural, coastal communities where his support is more certain.

In Kenai and Homer, Walker volunteers had a robust showing, with three vehicles and a little “barrel train” that had children in it. About 30 people were in the Walker entry that did both parades.

Mark Begich  appeared in Seward in the parade, walking with his wife Deborah Bonito.

The Mat-Su Democrats’ parade entry carried signs for Begich, but not Walker, an indication that the party has fully transitioned back from the Walker-Mallott “Unity” ticket it supported in 2014 to the “Party Purity” ticket of Democrats Mark Begich-Deborah Call.

Mark Begich and his wife Deborah Bonito walk in the Seward parade, right in front of the Stand for Salmon entry.

There was no sign of Begich volunteers in Kenai or Homer, according to observers. Begich only joined the race on June 2 and has been trying to muscle in on Walker votes.

Mead Treadwell poses with pirates from the Nauti Otter Inn in Seward at the start of the Fourth of July Parade.

As for gubernatorial candidate Mead Treadwell, who also joined the race for governor on June 2, his volunteers got up to speed with a good showing in Homer, Kenai, and Ketchikan, and he appeared in the Seward parade with his daughter Natalie.

“We had a great response in Seward,” Treadwell said this morning from a breakfast he was attending.

One of the more surprising entries was the 50 people who joined the Dunleavy parade entry in Juneau, with a diverse group that included some former public officials. Although Juneau is a government town, there were lots of cheers for Dunleavy’s truck that was covered with signs and festooned with red, white, and blue banners. Volunteers said they were “over the moon” with the support their candidate received in Juneau.

Dunleavy parade walkers muster with their truck entry in Juneau.

While Treadwell, Walker or Begich didn’t have a float entry in the Juneau parade, Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott and his family walked the route and waved the flag for his re-election.

Where was candidate Dunleavy during the Fourth of July?

He and his wife Rose were in the Wasilla and Chugiak parades with about 70 volunteers in Wasilla, the largest showing of any political campaign across the state. In Chugiak, his campaign had 50 volunteers walking and tossing candy.

Tall guy in the back is Mike Dunleavy, with volunteer parade walkers in Wasilla.

Parade entries don’t tell the whole story of a campaign, but they are a strong indicator of voter enthusiasm and also how well a campaign has been able to motivate volunteers going into the Aug. 21 primary. It’s also an organizational feat for campaigns to make a showing in a state the size of Alaska.

“We didn’t do a big push for volunteers,” said Brett Huber, campaign manager for Dunleavy. “We just let them know where we’d be, and then we were overwhelmed with them. The turnout was phenomenal.”

Of course, it helped that the sun shone on communities across the state in what was parade-perfect weather.