With eye on 2018, Alaska Democrats hire operatives to work municipal elections in Mat-Su, Kenai

The Alaska Democratic Party is getting an early start on its ground game for next year’s state election, hiring three field organizers to work with local volunteers on upcoming municipal elections in Fairbanks, the Mat-Su and the Kenai Peninsula.

The party hired the staffers over the summer and they’re now working with Democrats to support favored candidates in the Oct. 3 election, when Alaskans will be choosing school board, borough assembly and city council members as well as deciding whether to ban marijuana in parts of the Kenai and Fairbanks.

The party plans to keep the staffers on the payroll through the state-level elections in 2018 — recruiting candidates, identifying voters and coordinating volunteers, said Jay Parmley, the Alaska Democrats’ executive director.

The effort represents a renewed party focus on local elections around the state, which Parmley said can ultimately help groom qualified candidates for the state Legislature, in areas where Democrats have had little success.

The party has long supported municipal candidates in Anchorage, but not in other parts of Alaska, Parmley said. There are no Democrats representing the Mat-Su or Kenai, and just three among the nine Fairbanks-area legislators.

“What we’re finally doing is saying to the rest of the state that we believe local races matter just as much,” Parmley said in a phone interview. “Because we know that borough assembly members or city council members in Palmer or Homer might be our next great candidates” for the Legislature, he added.

Two of the organizers are based in Anchorage but focus on the Mat-Su and Kenai, while the third is focused on Fairbanks, Parmley said.

They’re paid a salary that equates to roughly $30,000 a year, according to party campaign finance reports filed with the Federal Election Commission. Parmley said the investment amounts to a “good chunk” of the party’s budget for 2017.

Tuesday’s municipal races are technically…

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