Political parties in Alaska have state conventions every two years, and 2010 means it's time for it to happen again.
As the co-chairman of the Capital City Republicans, I serve on the Republican State Central Committee, and have attended the last two Republican State Conventions as a delegate for district three. Several years ago the convention was in Soldotna, and two years ago it was in Anchorage. This year, for the first time in two decades, the Alaska Republican Party is gathering in Juneau.
Most Alaskans are not registered as members of a political party, but among those who are, the largest share are Republicans. Independents and undeclared voters have the freedom to vote for whomever they wish, even in primary elections, as they are unencumbered by any preordained allegiance to a political party. Those not involved in party politics may wonder what a convention involves, and what happens during its proceedings.
The Republican State Convention kicks off this coming Thursday afternoon with a meeting of the State Central Committee, the body that runs Republican Party business during the two-year intervals between conventions. The State Central Committee meets quarterly, and handles administrative and procedural matters, as well as allowing party leaders to get together and share information and ideas.
The State Convention proper commences on Friday morning at Centennial Hall. The first event of the day will be a Republican gubernatorial candidates' forum, the first time all the of declared Republican candidates for governor will be together to speak about their candidacies and their hopes for Alaska's future. I'll have the privilege of moderating this forum, and I'm looking forward to hearing what these gentlemen have to say.
After the breakfast, the convention will formally begin. Conventions are highly structured events, with agendas and procedures that are strictly followed. There are reports from the party's officers about activities at the local, state and national levels, and updates about likely candidates for the State House and State Senate elections on this year's ballots. After a morning of convention business, there will be a forum for candidates for lieutenant governor, and then the delegates break up into assigned committees for an afternoon of work. The committees include platform, rules and various policy areas like natural resources, jobs and the economy. The committees then deliberate about their assigned tasks so they can report back to the full convention later on.
Friday evening will be the convention banquet, a gala event where delegates and alternates are joined by guests for an evening of socializing and fun. This year's keynote speaker will be Co-Chairman Jan Larimer of the Republican National Committee. Sometimes a few of the convention committees won't have finished their work before the banquet, and those hard-working delegates get to return to their work after Friday's dinner.
Saturday morning will begin bright and early with a forum for those Republicans seeking to represent Alaska in Congress. After this concludes, the convention will formally reconvene, and the committees will report on their work. Resolutions and proposed changes to the Party platform will be considered, and new officers will be elected for the coming two years. Halfway through Saturday, Senator Lisa Murkowski will address the convention, and in the afternoon the convention will wrap up its work and adjourn.
Juneau residents interested in this year's Republican State Convention still have the opportunity to participate in certain activities. While one must have attended a district convention and been elected as a delegate or alternate in order to attend the formal convention proceedings, the candidates forums, the banquet and lunch with Senator Murkowski are open to all those who wish to purchase a ticket and attend. Members of the press will be able to observe the main convention proceedings, and can be expected to report on these deliberations to their respective media outlets. The lobby of Centennial Hall will be open to the public throughout the convention, and various candidates and groups will have booths there, getting the word out about their campaigns and other activities.
Some in Juneau not affiliated with the Republican cause may wonder what, if anything, the 2010 Republican State Convention means to them. This is a question I can easily answer: This convention is a tremendous opportunity for all residents of Juneau to show, once again, how good we are as a community at serving as the seat of state government. By courteously and efficiently welcoming Republicans to Juneau, we can erase any doubts in these visitors' minds about our community. We can dispel any misconceptions they have about Juneau's hospitality.
Coincidentally, the Alaska Democratic Party is also holding its biennial State Convention in Southeast Alaska this year. It will be next month in Sitka.
What a serendipitous opportunity for the entire region to shine by welcoming Alaskans from farther north to Southeast.
I am certain that the Republican State Convention in Juneau will represent Southeast in the best possible light. I hope and trust that everyone in Juneau will remember how important it is that we take seriously our obligation to be hospitable and welcoming to our fellow Alaskans, regardless of their ideological views.
Ben Brown is an attorney living in Juneau and is co-chair of the Capital City Republicans.