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Friday, August 27, 2021

Caucus Chaos in Anchorage


All photos by Carl Johnson –

Even though it was eight years ago, the chaos of the 2008 Alaska Democratic Caucus was still fresh in my mind as I approached West High School this morning to attend the caucus that would take part in delivering Bernie Sanders a dominating victory in Alaska over Hillary Clinton.

Early signs of trouble arose as I drove north past Romig Middle School, with lines of cars pouring in there to park as I headed naively north in the hopes of finding parking closer to the caucus site.

We ended up parking about five blocks away from the school, arriving at West High from the east and seeing a long line extending out from the front of the school and stretching toward Romig. A kind volunteer told us the line on the west side of the school was much shorter and moving quickly.

12915116_10208842273711631_1116544715_oThe line moved quickly, but the comfort provided by that evaporated once entering the school entrance. Inside was a mass of bodies so thick, it was impossible to tell where to go. Volunteers quickly approached us, told us three different directions to go, asked us if we had pre-registered to attend the caucus (“No, none of the information about the caucus said we had to pre-register,” I responded), we took our forms, and started to head toward our district caucus location. Unfortunately, it was on the far end of a mass of bodies that would send the Fire Marshall’s head spinning.

We waded through the Gauntlet, slowly but steadily wading our way through a mass of bodies too thick to suggest there was any plan involved in setting up this caucus. On the far end of the hall, we cleared the mass of bodies and found the table for our district. Only to learn that our real caucus site was actually back through the Gauntlet, in the heart of the largest congregation of people in attendance – the school auditorium.

Once inside, with nearly the full complement of Democrats in Anchorage in attendance, we heard speeches from elected office holders, those running for office, as well as the tribal leaders for the area (Lee Stephan, Chief of the Eklutna Village, spoke to the delegates to raucous applause). Then, the attendees were treated a series of videos from the candidates running for the Democratic nomination, in alphabetical order. First, the candidates were announced, with Hillary Clinton first, followed by Roque De La Fuente (the first time all of us had heard that name), and Bernie Sanders. When Sanders’ name was mentioned, the entire auditorium erupted in chaotic, energetic applause and shouting. That’s when I knew Alaska would go for Bernie in a big way.

With the Fire Marshall actually making an appearance and breathing down the neck of the organizers, they slowly disbursed the crowd to their individual district caucus rooms, but we in House District 28 stayed in the auditorium along with District 27. They had us sort ourselves by the candidates we supported. On the District 28 side of the auditorium, the Clinton supporters took point in the front section of seats, with several empty 12894417_10208842273791633_1745164833_oseats remaining, and the Sanders supporters took the rear, with many standing. If you are familiar with theater seating, the narrow sections are up front and the wider sections are in back. Even with the wider section, District 28 Sanders supporters ran out of seats. In contrast, on the District 27 side of the floor, the Sanders supporters dominated almost all rows, with the Clinton supporters taking only the last three rows on their side of the floor.

In the end, our District went about 250 for Sanders and 102 for Clinton, with 14 state delegates to Sanders and 5 to Clinton. From there, the rest was standard party organizing, with election of delegates for the state convention in May, election of district officers, and a vote endorsing a resolution to call for switching to a primary instead of a caucus system. Although, one suggestion was floated to, rather than having all of Anchorage’s districts meet in one location, have each district caucus at a location within its own district – not having over 5,000 people cram into one place that was clearly not designed for such an event. I was among many who supported that notion.

We would later learn that Alaska went nearly 81% for Bernie Sanders, with the highest block of Clinton supporters coming from south Anchorage – likely our district. And it was a margin of victory that would be repeated in Washington state (nearly 73% for Sanders) and Hawaii. And while the mainstream media seemed determined to downplay the victory for Sanders, the foreign media took note of the threat to Clinton’s seemingly inevitable coronation.

For a rare instance in presidential politics, it was nice to feel relevant for once. Not something we are accustomed to up here in Alaska.




Carl Johnson is a fine art and stock nature photographer based out of Anchorage, Alaska. He focuses on Alaska and the Arctic, along with Alaska’s sister state, Hawaii. He has served as the artist-in-residence for three national parks. His first book, Where Water is Gold: Life and Livelihood in Alaska’s Bristol Bay, is being published by Braided River and is scheduled for release in early Summer 2016. You can find his photography and blog at



14 Responses to “Caucus Chaos in Anchorage”
  1. mike from iowa says:

    Troll Shane must be of the residual persuasion. It is present and won’t go away. Residual action is a desired state in pesticides and some herbicides.

  2. Zyxomma says:

    I’m FeelingTheBern (or the bird) in NYC. I, too, have been voting since 1972, when I turned 18.

  3. mike from iowa says:

    I sent this article to Cory Allen Heidelberger @ Dakota Free Press about 40 minutes ago. Here is his response to me.
    3:31 PM (36 minutes ago)

    That’s a lot of voters, Mike!

    That’s a good sign. I hope all these folks running caucuses and
    primaries turn up their expectations so they are ready to handle these
    larger crowds, and I hope we keep seeing the larger crowds.

    Yesterday’s Sanders sweep has me hoping he can bring a good
    knock-down-drag-out primary fight to South Dakota. Maybe I’ll get to
    live-blog speeches by Clinton and Sanders! If they come, I’ll also get
    to work the crowds with my own campaign literature. 🙂


    • Alaska Pi says:

      Do candidates really go to SD? They have over 100K more people than we do here. but that is still a small population.
      They rarely do here. Mr Sanders’ wife was here for 3 days which was / is a pretty big deal.
      Ms Clinton did not bother.
      I wish a lot of the candidates could at least fake their interest in our votes a bit better.
      The tyranny of the metropolitan majority is starting to wear thin for me…

      • mike from iowa says:

        I have enquired of Master Cory whether Potus candidates do indeed stop in Dakota. Waiting to hear from him. Did Carpetbagger Barbie Danny Boy register any opinion on Obama’s Scotus nominee? Or did he hightail it back to Ohio after winning the election? Haven’t heard a word or even heard of anyone seeing him since he stole the election.

        • Alaska Pi says:

          The twit chooses to decide that the last election for President is null and void. I am so sick of these turkeys. This stance denies my vote for 2 elections running .
          1-We need to figure out how to shorten these election years which are working up to being 2 years so jerks can’t wait out the Pres or Governor or whoever- waste of time and money all the way around.
          2 And I think the doof is saying only Alaska’s majority -Republicans- get any help from him- kinda like Don Young -only in cleaner language. Yeppers- Dan-o only those Alaskans who vote for Rs deserve their voice to be heard through their vote, eh?

          • mike from iowa says:

            My Sinator Grassley says basically the same shit. Strom Thurmond started this no nominations in the last 6 months of a lame duck Potus term clear back in 1968. So it is the Thurmond Rule,not the Biden Rules. I have suggested Grassley should retire and take freshman sinator and former KGB agent Ivana Kuturnutzov with him.(Joni Ernst) 🙂

      • mike from iowa says:

        Hi, Mike!

        I think Ben Carson came through Sioux Falls last fall, but that’s all I
        know of.

        In 2008, when things were still tight, we saw Hillary and Bill Clinton
        in Madison. Obama didn’t come to Madison, but there is a grand picture
        of him in front of the Corn Palace. Both Clinton and Obama hit some
        other SD venues in late May and early June.


  4. J-BEAV says:

    The wonderful part of the exercise that has been overlooked is that many people showed up to support the Democratic Party and their platform. The Alaskan Republican Legislature advance bills friendly to corporations, NRA, religious right etc. but neglect human concerns of poverty, healthcare and women’s rights. It is time for Republicans recognize that many Alaskans are getting tired of the theft of oil wealth to increase corporate profits and build useless mega projects as LIO, Knik Arm Crossing and a railway to nowhere.

  5. Alaska Pi says:

    Poor ole Shane Holt- not even up to your usual 9 -feet -under -the -runway -landing material.
    Not even a crash landing there , hon.

  6. Alaska Pi says:

    We had a packed house here in JNU- but only 2 districts.

    Full of people of all ages and colors.
    Much has been made of Ms Clinton doing well with women and people of color.
    In Alaska- no, she doesn’t.
    Please, do not forget that -those of you in the Clinton campaign.
    As an old female mixed race Social Democrat woman who has been a supervoter since 1972, I am already tired of being insulted on multiple levels, please do not add to it. You and I both realize it is likely I may have to vote for your candidate in Nov- don’t make it a sour pickle event, eh?

    Bernie took 82.63% in my district. YAY!! 837 to 176
    (77%+ in other district was nice too )

    Boy- was it nice to cast a “yea” for someone I truly would like to see in the Office of the President. Rare and nice.

    • mike from iowa says:

      Well and truly said, Ms Pi. Can’t wait to cast my vote for the Bern. I will soldier on in the general – regardless of who the nominee is. Dangit, we deserve to cast a vote that just feels right once in a while. 🙂

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