Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Alaska Democrats to Caucus on March 26 But With a Caveat

The Alaska Democratic Party on March 17 released for public comment its draft 2016 delegate selection plan.1 Democrats in the Last Frontier have caucused throughout the post-reform era but have been all over the map in terms of when those precinct meetings have been scheduled. For half of the ten cycles since 1972 Alaska Democrats have begun their delegate selection process in early to mid-March. But the party has also chosen a smattering of February and April start points as well. It is a trendless pattern. The party does not, for example, caucus earlier in years when there is a competitive Democratic nomination race.

After mid-April caucuses in 2012, Alaska Democrats plan on Saturday, March 26 caucuses in 2016. Like 2012, Alaska will align the first determining step of its caucuses/convention process with those of Washington Democrats. Unlike 2012, those states will be, at least according to the available draft delegate selection plans, joined by Hawaii Democrats on March 26. The Alaska plan even states that the clustering of the three contests is by design; to form a Western Regional caucus. Though the three state parties would not be eligible for timing bonuses with a late March date, they would meet the requirements in the Democratic Call for the Convention for the (sub)regional clustering bonuses tacked onto the base delegation. The 15% increase is something that FHQ mentioned in the discussion of the North Dakota Democrats' plan.

Interestingly though, Alaska Democrats have planned ahead and provided themselves with an out should Washington and Hawaii be unable to participate in the proposed regional caucuses. If for whatever reason -- say, perhaps, a switch to a primary in Washington -- the March 26 cluster falls apart, then Alaska Democrats will caucus on March 1, the earliest date on which non-carve-out states can conduct delegate selection events. It should be noted that the Washington delegate selection plan is more definitive about the date of the caucuses, adding no such contingency in the event that the legislature provides for an earlier primary. Then again, Washington Democrats were the exception to the rule in 2012. The party changed the date of their caucuses after the draft delegate selection plan was released four years, pushing back a week to align with Alaska.

But Washington Democrats seem less likely to flip flop on the caucuses or primary question. That makes it more likely that this noncontiguous regional caucus will actually occur on March 26.

NOTE: FHQ will pencil these dates in on the 2016 presidential primary calendar, but please note that the plans are not finalized and are still subject to change. With very few exceptions, though, the dates in the 2012 draft plans for caucuses states did not change.

1 The above link is to the plan on the Alaska Democratic Party site. FHQ will also keep a version of the plan here.

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