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ANCHORAGE - Alaska Democrats and Republicans are holding their state conventions this weekend, with the spotlight on the U.S. presidential campaign and partisan issues.
The Alaska Democratic Party kicks off its two-day convention in Anchorage on Saturday, when statewide delegates will declare their presidential preferences and elect national delegates. The Republican Party of Alaska launched its three-day gathering Thursday in Soldotna and also will select national delegates on Saturday.
Early comers to the Democratic session will meet this evening at The Fly By Night Club, known for its biting political satires. The show will include a new act spoofing the presidential campaign - "The Liar Sleeps Tonight," sung to the tune of "The Lion Sleeps Tonight," said the club owner, who goes by the name of Mr. Whitekeys.
"Undoubtedly there will also be some slant on the Democratic Party, just as we do with Republicans every time they're in here," he said.
Among about 220 state delegates attending the Democratic convention, Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry is expected to be the favored presidential candidate over longshot Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich, said Bridget Gallagher, executive director of the Alaska Democratic Party. Delegates will state their preferences beginning at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Hilton Anchorage hotel.
They also will select 18 voting delegates and four alternates to send to the national convention, where more than 4,300 delegates will elect a nominee for president. The national convention will be held in Boston on July 26-29. More than 350 Alaska Republicans are taking part in their party's convention at the Soldotna Sports Center. Because President Bush's bid for re-election is unopposed, the highlight of the event is electing 26 of the 29 voting delegates to attend the national convention at New York City's Madison Square Garden on Aug. 30-Sept. 2. Another 26 alternates also will be chosen.
"Republicans are hugely in agreement with the presidential agenda," said state party Chairman Randy Ruedrich.
Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman is scheduled to address the Republicans on Friday night with a speech entitled, "The Mission - Victory 2004," according to the convention agenda. And while the presidential campaign commands attention, it's not the most important component for Democrats meeting in Anchorage, said state party chairman Scott Sterling, who remained uncommitted to a candidate on Thursday.
Sterling said the event is a good time to reflect on the need for partisan change - specifically toppling Republicans, including U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski and her father, Gov. Frank Murkowski, who appointed her to fill his unexpired term when he was elected governor in 2002.