We dedicate this page to all the members of the Alaska Young Democrats that have helped move our state forward. We have a history of young Alaskans stepping up and taking the lead. We hope you enjoy this page and if you know of any stories, elected young Democrats, or pictures, please share with us.

Our Founding

In 1949, a group of young Democrats met at the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) and established the Alaska Young Democrats (AKYD) (in 2014, AKYD members were very fortunate to meet with Della Barry one of the participants in that first meeting). Other members of note who have gone on to become leaders in the community include William Beltz, Vic Fischer, and Blanche L. McSmith.

  • One of the first notable young Democratic leaders was William A. Egan. Born in 1914, he started his political career early when he was elected to the Alaska Territorial House of Representatives in 1940 at the age of 26. At the age of 32, Egan was elected Mayor of the town of Valdez; in 1953, Egan was elected to the Alaska Territorial Senate and went on to lead the Alaska Constitutional Convention in 1955. In 1959, Alaska became the 49th State and Egan was elected to become the State of Alaska's first Governor and served two terms. In 1970, Egan ran for Governor again was elected to become the fourth Governor of Alaska.
  • Mike Gravel was president of the Alaska Young Democrats in the 1950s. He was 32 when he was first elected to the Alaska State House of Representatives. Gravel became Speaker of the House and eventually elected United State Senator in 1969.

Ad hoc Democrats

In the late 1970s, young progressives, including Mary McKinnon and Bill Weimor, took over the Alaska Democratic Party through recruiting high school and college students, and becoming delegates at the State Party Convention. Though they were not formally organized as AKYD, they embodied the McGovern-wing of the Democratic Party, and elected a new generation of young Democrats.

  • Tony Knowles was a regular attendee of Ad Hoc Democrats meetings. He would later become the Mayor of Anchorage, and the Governor of Alaska in 1994.
  • Thelma Buchholdt was an Ad Hoc Democrats who was elected to the State House in 1974. She was the first Filipino legislator in the nation.

growing alaska's leaders

As the Ad Hoc Democrats disbanded in the 1980s, AKYD reactivated, electing young motivated Alaskans into office. With the group established, the consistent involvement of young Alaskans grew ⁠— another recognizable leader to come out of the group was Johnny Ellis.

  • Johnny Ellis graduated from Bartlett High School in 1978 and in 1987 was elected into the Alaska State House of Representatives at the age of 26. In 1993 he was elected to the Alaska State Senate and in 2009 Senator Ellis served as the Senate Majority Leader in 2009.
  • In 1988, 26 year old Mark Begich was elected to the Anchorage Municipal Assembly. Eventually Mark Begich went on to be Assembly Chair for three years and Vice Chair for two years. Afterwards, Begich was elected in 2003 as the Mayor of the Municipality of Anchorage. Later on Mark Begich was elected to the United States Senate in 2008.

Currently, young Democrats are active in community council meetings, vocal at school boards and city government, and some have ran for and been elected into office.

  • The youngest elected Democrat is Representative Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins. Representative Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins was elected in 2012 at the age of 24.
  • In 2013, the Alaska Democratic Party elected young Democrat Michael Wenstrup as Party Chair. At the time, he was the youngest Party Chair in the nation.
  • State Representative Geran Tarr started out leading her community council in the city of Anchorage and being involved with the Alaska Young Democrats (serving as AKYD president in 2005). In 2012, she was elected to the Alaska State House continues to stay active in her neighborhood.
  • Anchorage Assembly Member Forrest Dunbar has been involved in AKYD since 2013. Dunbar ran for U.S. Congress in 2014 at the age of 29. In 2016, he was elected to the Anchorage Assembly, serving as Anchorage Assembly Chair in 2017.
  • Felix Rivera ran for State House in 2013. In 2017, he was elected to the Anchorage Assembly, and served as the Chair in 2019.
  • After being involved in AKYD for two years, Paul Kelly was elected to the Juneau School Board in 2018.

The Alaska Young Democrats continue to lead on the forward movement for every village, town, and city in the state of Alaska.