Voters gather in the Homer High School Commons for Saturday’s Democratic Party presidential caucus for District 31. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders received overwhelming support from the voters, obtaining all 16 delegates for the district, which includes Homer. -Photo by Anna Frost, Homer News

Voters gather in the Homer High School Commons for Saturday’s Democratic Party presidential caucus for District 31. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders received overwhelming support from the voters, obtaining all 16 delegates for the district, which includes Homer. -Photo by Anna Frost, Homer News

Sanders wins support of Dems across Alaska

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders stood out at the Alaska Democratic caucuses on Saturday as the clear winner. Sanders received 81.6 percent of the delegates and 79.6 percent of the votes, according to results released by the Alaska Democratic Party. 

The 10,617 Alaskans who attended caucuses across the state equaled 119 percent of the 2008 turnout.

District 31’s caucus, which took place at Homer High School and the Challenger Learning Center of Alaska in Kenai, gave Sanders all 16 delegates, reflecting the state’s overwhelming support for Sanders. Rival candidates Hillary Clinton and Rocky De La Fuente did not receive the 15 percent of the vote required to earn a delegate. 

A diverse group of voters from all age groups and both genders pledged their support for Sanders — it was a difficult task finding a Clinton supporter in the packed commons area of Homer High School before the fan out. 

Sanders’ supporters noted Sanders’ consistency and values as reasons behind their votes. Sanders’ plans to change the political system’s direction resonate with many in Homer.

“I think people are just kind of tired of the establishment politics that are going on and … (Bernie’s) values are little more aligned with moving forward in a direction that’s not so corporatized, not so bought out,” said Homer resident Dillon Sundmark. “I think that the middle class needs to be represented more.”

“He speaks to me as far as what I’m frustrated with our government and how the citizens of our country are treated these days,” said Homer resident Gregory Drais. “He really speaks to me as far as what I’ve been frustrated with in politics my whole life.”

“I think that big money should be out of politics and I’d like to see some campaign finance reform,” said Homer resident Cheryl Rykaczewski.

Homer resident Abigail Kukai switched candidates the night before the caucus — going from 

Clinton to Sanders after reading a Rolling Stone article about Hillary, she said.

“I’ve been a Hillary supporter all along, but you know, it finally sunk in that Hillary really isn’t the right choice at this time,” Kukai said. “The young people have been supporting Bernie all this time and I’ve just been hesitant about that, but Hillary isn’t as active in getting things done.”

Clinton supporters at the Homer caucus location were mostly middle-aged or older men and women, with a couple younger exceptions. Clinton supporters expressed concern over Sanders’ plans, which they believe to be impractical. Though some did not completely dismiss Sanders and his ideas, they felt that Clinton’s experience dealing with global issues put her ahead of the game. Others noted Clinton’s work with women’s rights children and health care.

“I think she’s much better at foreign policy and I think that’s going to be the thing that kills us the next four years,” Homer resident Giulia Tortora said. “I think Bernie’s lovely, he has great ideas, but it’s impractical and we can’t afford them. I’d like to see him part of the government, but I think Hillary’s the person we have to have to control the foreign policy issues.”

“I think that she has more solid plans to deal with the issues than Bernie does. I think Bernie and Hillary at a practical level have very, very similar plans, but she’s more measured and isn’t willing to make promises that she can’t back up with a solid plan,” said Homer resident Ethan Denny. “Every time I hear Bernie, it always comes back to the same answer, which is ‘Wall Street, Wall Street, Wall Street,’ and our problems are a lot more complex than that.”

Though De La Fuente, a San Diego, Calif. businessman and mostly unknown underdog in the race, was the only candidate who visited Alaska or sent a campaign representative to the Homer location, he lacked support at the caucus. De La Fuente received one vote within the state of Alaska, coming from District 12 in the Mat-Su and Anchorage area, and therefore received no delegates.

Out of 571 voters, only 67 lined up for Clinton at the fan out. At the Homer High School caucus location, Clinton supporters took up about six rows of chairs on the front left side of the room, while Sanders supporters started in the front right side of the room and stretched to the back, filling the back horizontally to keep from spilling out the school’s front doors. Only one voter stood for De La Fuente and was asked to join another group for the final count. At the Kenai location, only nine voters caucused for Hillary while the other 58 voters fanned out for Bernie. 

Although the Challenger Learning Center is located in Kenai, District 31 does not include the city of Kenai. District 31 ends north of Kasiof, not far above Kalifornsky Road, and includes Fox River, Fritz Creek, Kachemak City, Homer, Diamond Ridge, Anchor Point, Happy Valley, Ninilchik and Clam Gulch. 

Amid record turnout numbers for the state of Alaska, District 31 boasted the third highest number of voters in attendance. Juneau’s District 34 came in first with 1,013 voters and District 4 in Fairbanks was second with 627 voters. 

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