Alaska Democrats seeking new executive director, plan to recruit challenger to Young

JUNEAU — The Alaska Democratic Party is seeking a new executive director, and its chairwoman hopes to make an offer on June 11.

Patti Higgins said Tuesday that applications will be taken until June 7 for the job being vacated by Deborah Williams. Williams, who was executive director for about two years, is leaving for personal and family reasons. Her last day is July 15.

“I tried. I tried really, really hard to do it all,” Williams said. “The party needs someone who can give 150 percent,” and she said she wasn’t able to do that right now.

She said this seemed like the time to “pass the baton,” with the 2012 election — and opportunities for Democrats — looming. The number of registered Democrats in the state spiked after President Barack Obama’s election in 2008, hitting 75,047 in May 2009. It has since fallen to 72,090 as of May 3.

“I think President Obama has done an outstanding job, and I think there will be a lot of momentum associated with his re-election,” she said.

Nonpartisan and undeclared voters remain the single-largest voting bloc in the state. There were 127,881 registered Republicans as of early May.

Williams blames the Democrat’s lag, in part, to the Republicans’ closed primary system, which allows registered Republicans and those registered as nonpartisan or undeclared to take a ballot. The Democratic primary allows for any registered voter to participate.

“I look at the election results in this state and continue to be very optimistic about the progressive voice and progressive values in this state,” she said. “I think, more and more, we’re returning to our progressive roots as a state.”

The party is seeking someone “battle hardened, really experienced,” heading into the 2012 election cycle, Higgins said. She said the party is getting “some really good applicants” but declined to elaborate. A hiring committee was expected to review resumes on June 8.

Besides next year’s presidential race, the other major race in Alaska will be for the state’s lone congressional seat. Republican U.S. Rep. Don Young, who has held the seat for nearly 40 years, has said he plans to seek re-election.

Higgins said Democrats will field a challenger but she hasn’t begun recruiting yet, wanting first to get a better sense for how the redistricting process plays out.

The rewriting of political lines, expected to be completed by mid-June, could shake up the legislative landscape in Juneau.

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