Democrats convene in Fairbanks and Republicans meet in Ketchikan

Posted: Friday, May 17, 2002

The state Democratic party will meet in Fairbanks over the weekend while Republicans are convening in Ketchikan. At the top of the agendas for both parties: Claiming the governor's seat this fall.

The Democratic Party of Alaska launches its biennial convention at the Westmark Hotel on Friday. The party hasn't held a statewide convention in Fairbanks in 14 years.

''I think that the Democrats are going to have a prominent place in policymaking over the next 10 years,'' said Executive Director Tammy Troyer, referring to the new redistricting plan that improves the Democrats' position over the current political map. ''This convention marks the beginning of that.''

About 175 delegates from legislative districts throughout the state are expected to attend the convention, whose theme is ''Building a Democratic Majority.'' Democrats -- with 12 of 40 House seats and six of 20 Senate seats -- last controlled both chambers in 1992 but lost both by 1994.

''I would say that keeping the governorship is definitely at the top of the list,'' Troyer told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.

Democrats have controlled the governorship the last eight years, and Democratic Lt. Gov. Fran Ulmer is widely considered the party favorite to succeed Gov. Tony Knowles. U.S. Sen. Frank Murkowski of Fairbanks is considered the Republican front-runner.

In Ketchikan, 200 Republican delegates from throughout the state kicked off their party's biennial convention Thursday at the Ted Ferry Civic Center.

''I think (the convention) is very important for everyone to have an understanding that our goal is to function as a united party that elects a Republican governor in November,'' GOP state chairman Randy Ruedrich told the Ketchikan Daily News.

For all its success dominating statewide politics, the Republican Party has failed in its efforts to win the state executive branch since Jay Hammond won a second term in 1978.

Republicans are hoping Murkowski puts an end to that tradition.

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