(This is the first in a series that Must Read Alaska has planned for the upcoming presidential cycle, as MRAK covers both the Alaska Democrats and Alaska Republicans building their cases for their candidates.)
Jay Parmley, who has served for three years as the chief of the Alaska Democratic Party, has left for Florida, and Lindsay Kavanaugh has been named the new executive director of the party. Her new title was announced on Monday.
Kavanaugh, like Parmley, was hired from Outside the state. She most recently was a professional staffer to the U.S. House of Representatives Armed Services Committee. Before that, she was a military adviser to former Sen. Mark Begich from 2009-2014. She’s a policy expert, having worked in the halls of Congress for most of her career. There’s no evidence that she has grassroots party experience.
Kavanaugh will have a task ahead of her unlike any executive director before her, as the ADP seeks to execute its first-ever statewide primary in 2020, abandoning the caucus system that it has used for years. Holding a private primary, run mainly by volunteers, is something the Republicans have done similarly with their presidential preference poll, which is a one-day in-person balloting to decide who delegates to the National Convention will support for president.
The Republicans are unlikely to have a presidential preference poll in 2020 since their nominee is nearly guaranteed to be the incumbent President Donald Trump. The Republican Party in Alaska has been without an executive director for over a year, but at least they don’t have to conduct a statewide PPP this year.
The Alaska Democrats came under withering criticism during the last presidential cycle, when 81 percent who participated in the caucuses favored Bernie Sanders, yet the delegates to the Democratic National Convention were assigned to back Hillary Clinton.
The move to a private primary system is not without peril; it is volunteer run and the checks and balances needed to earn the trust of the voters cannot be assured at every location.
When the Republicans have their presidential preference poll, the paper ballots are counted at the district level with several volunteer witnesses, and then the results are phoned into headquarters, where staff and volunteers tabulate results.
The paper ballots are then double-checked at party headquarters before results are final. Even then, the checks and balances are not as rigorous as they are in a state-run primary process.
In 2016, Alaskans participating in the Republican presidential preference poll threw their support to Ted Cruz (36 percent), and Donald Trump (34 percent). Marco Rubio got 15 percent, and Ben Carson received 11 percent.
The Democrats have said that in their primary they plan to provide their voters with electronic ballots, absentee voting, rank-choice voting, and in-person voting at voting centers across Alaska.
The actual primary in Alaska comes after the national conventions for both of the major parties. While the Democrats are having their party-run “primary” on April 4, 2020, the actual primary is on Aug. 18, 2020 — but that’s long after the Democrats will have chosen their nominee at their national convention.
Feb. 3: Iowa Caucus, 41 Democratic delegates to National Convention
Feb. 11: New Hampshire Primary, 24 Democratic delegates to National Convention
April 4: Alaska Democratic Primary, 14 Democratic delegates to National Convention.
April 28: New York Democratic Primary, the last of the big states. After this primary, the DNC will try to bring the focus to just one candidate, if one candidate is dominating.
July 13-16: National Democratic Convention in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, which is a battleground state.
Sept. 12-13: Houston will be host city of the third Democratic primary debate. It will be broadcast on ABC and Univision, live streamed on ABC News. Candidates must meet a much higher threshold to qualify for this debate so expect the pressure to intensify.
October: Fourth Democratic primary debate
November: Fifth Democratic primary debate
December: Sixth Democratic primary debate