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From Democratic warmth, delegates head North

Posted: Friday, August 18, 2000

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- From the warm sunshine of California and the coziness of their party's convention, Alaska Democrats head home Friday to the cold reality of Republican-dominated politics in their home state.

For four days, the delegation reveled in a gathering of like-minded political activists. The three Alaska Native delegates attended the Native American caucus. Gay members of the delegation went to the gay and lesbian caucus. Female delegates met and mingled with their comrades at a variety of gatherings aimed at Democratic women.

''When you're around people who are like you in ideas, you take something back'' home, said Dan Carter, a gay delegate from Anchorage. Sitting in the delegation's Hollywood hotel, Carter gestured at Wisconsin Rep. Tammy Baldwin, the first acknowledged lesbian member of Congress.

The experience, Carter said, has re-energized him to fight for political change in conservative Alaska.

Republicans control majorities in both chambers of the Legislature and hold all three of the state's seats in Congress, although Gov. Tony Knowles is a Democrat.

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Corporations weren't allowed to buy breakfasts for Alaska's delegates, although it was a common practice with other delegations. Delegation chairwoman Cindy Spanyers said delegates wanted to abide by the spirit of Alaska campaign finance law, which generally bans corporate contributions.

But some of the state's biggest companies still found ways to pay for eggs, bacon, fruit and rolls. Officials from BP Amoco, Phillips Petroleum and Alyeska Pipeline wrote personal checks for breakfast on three of the days.

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Matthew Nicolai wasn't satisfied with the downbeat atmosphere on the bus back to the delegation's hotel Wednesday night. So he began spinning a high-tech gadget that flashed ''Al Gore'' and began to roar: ''Everybody's for Gore?'' at the top of his lungs.

The busload of people, from the Alaska, Idaho, Oklahoma, Wisconsin and American Samoa delegations, responded with a spirited ''Yeah!'' each time.

''Yupik Eskimos are usually loud,'' Nicolai explained to the bus. ''I'm the loudest one in our group.''

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Convention 2000 Barbie didn't find many fans among the Alaska delegation.

The doll, clad in a neat red suit complete with convention credential, was manufactured in China by nonunion workers. So the delegation, which includes several union leaders, decided to donate them to Alaska hospitals so sick children could play with them.

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