As the 2016 presidential race begins to heat up, it’s clear Alaska is feeling the “Bern,” and Skagway is no exception.
A Democratic caucus was hosted at Skagway School on March 26 and welcomed 109 participants. Of those, 104 committed to Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and five committed to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Voters were given pink note cards and sorted into groups according to their affiliations: Clinton supporters on one side, Sanders supporters on the other, and one undecided right in the middle.
With an uncommitted vote, both parties tried to convince the voter why they should vote for their specific candidate. It didn’t take long before Sanders group of 103 added one more to their pack.
Skagway is a part of House District 33, along with Gustavus, Haines, and downtown Juneau. As the district is so spread out, organizer Jeanne Tyson teleconferenced with Juneau and delivered the results from Skagway.
All together, HD 33 had the largest turnouts of all 40 districts, with 1,013 people in attendance. Fairbanks, HD 19, took second place with 627 voters. Of HD 33’s 1,013 voters, 837 were Sanders supporters and 176 supported Clinton.
Tyson said the event required a lot of preparation and learning of rules, but in the end she really liked it.
“There was just so much excited electric energy in the place,” she said. “Just counting everybody and looking them in the eyes…. it was a lot of fun.”
She said she supports Sanders because of his fight against the corporations that have been ruling the country since day one.
“I do believe in a different paradigm of peace and understanding. His values represent my values in that way.”
Tamar Harrison is a new voter, having been sworn in as an American citizen last August. Her vote is also with Sanders.
“I think he embodies all the best parts of what America could be,” she said.
Hailing from the UK, Harrison said it’s horrifying that even with health insurance, people are afraid to visit the doctor.
“I come from a country where, of course if you’re hurt or sick you can get the care you need. Even if it’s not the perfect system, at least it’s there.”
Harrison assisted Tyson in organizing the caucus and said it was exciting to be a part of the process. She didn’t know if 50 people would show up, so the final numbers were a surprise.
“People think the word socialist is a terrifying thing, but actually that’s what our public libraries are. That’s what our public school system is. Fire fighters, street sweepers… It’s all part of a socialist idea,” she said. “And what Bernie is preaching now is not so terrifying or that different from what we already have. It’s just growing it.”
Thirty-five Sanders delegates and eight Clinton delegates from HD 33 and 34 will attend the state convention in May. Rebecca Hylton and one other delegate will represent Skagway.
Tyson urged supporters to donate to the delegates travel expenses via a GoFundMe account. As of Wednesday, the account had raised $820 in six days, just $180 short of their goal.