On Election Day, 21-year-old Ron Meehan was paying very close attention to races in two completely different time zones.
On the one hand, he was watching results roll in in Connecticut, where he goes to college. But he was also keeping a close eye on races in Alaska.
Meehan is the regional vice chair for the Alaska Democratic Party and the vice chair of the Alaska Gulf Coast Democrats, which encompasses Districts 29 through 32. He’s serving a two-year term.
Meehan is a senior at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn., where he’s studying government and environmental studies. Before that, he grew up in Kenai and graduated from Soldotna High School in 2017.
Although he’s only in college, Meehan says he’s worked on half-dozen campaigns. This election, he worked for Paul Dale, the Independent challenger for the House District 29 seat.
Dale is trailing incumbent Ben Carpenter from Election Day, with absentee ballots still uncounted until next week.
Meehan says this week was a bit nutty.
“I spent a lot of the day before the election and part of the day during the election phone banking for Paul," he said. "And on election night, I had worked on Ben Florsheim’s campaign, who’s the mayor here now. Another one of our friends, who was very helpful on that campaign, ended up running for state house, he’s also a young Dem here in Connecticut. And I was actually at his house on the night of the election and he ended up winning his election, too.”
Meehan said he’s one of seven or eight people on the Alaska Democrats Executive Committee who are under 35. A lot of his work on the Alaska Democrats has to do with reaching out to young people to get them involved.
It’s partly youth participation in the political process that keeps him motivated to work for the Democratic Party in a region and state that are majority conservative.
“It’s not always easy. But what I will say is for one, Alaska is not the deep red state that people would think," he said. "It’s kind of difficult to explain to people who are not from Alaska. ’Cause it has very much an independent steak. I think it’s very different from your typical ‘Republican state.’ I think, for me, partially what gives me hope and what allows me to be optimistic, for one, — and I keep coming back to this but it’s so important — is the youth that are leading the charge.”
Alaska’s Democratic Party embraced Independent candidates this election, like Al Gross and Alyse Galvin.
Locally, Dale’s campaign brought together folks of all political stripes.
“I’d say that it was something very different from the campaign work I’d previously done. The demographics of the district and what was most important to voters was also different," he said. "You know, Paul ran as an independent. And it was reflected by the campaign itself. I’m a Democrat. The campaign manager is a Republican. We have supporters from across the political spectrum that I think were eager for change and representation.”
Meehan said he thinks in these races, people unite over values instead of party.
So, will Meehan run for office himself one day?
“It’s something I’ve certainly thought about. I can’t deny I haven’t thought about it," he said. "I don’t know what the future holds. Like I said, it’s exciting but nerve wracking at the same time. And for a long time, I thought law school. And now I'm leaning toward public policy. But we’ll say it’s something I definitely would consider.”
He said he’s not yet sure if he’ll be returning to Alaska permanently after graduation.