It’s an exciting weekend for hundreds of Alaska Republicans at the state GOP convention in Fairbanks. The delegates chosen there could play a key role in the national convention in Cleveland this summer.


It all stems from the local party’s last-minute decision to let Marco Rubio keep the five delegates he won in Alaska during the party’s Presidential Preference Poll in March.


According to Alaska party rules, delegates are only bound to their candidates for the first two rounds of votes. After that, they become free agents. That would allow the five Rubio delegates to pile on to a nomination for Donald Trump or Ted Cruz.


Depending on which way they go, those delegates could put Alaska in an important position.


“One delegate may not make a difference in who the Republican presidential nominee is, but five could,” said Peter Goldberg, chairman of the Alaska Republican Party. “And so, Alaska might end up choosing the nominee.”


Cruz claimed 12 of Alaska’s 28 delegates in the Presidential Preference Poll, while Trump took 11. There are 159 people vying for 25 national delegate seats. Another three seats are assigned to party leaders. Judy Eldge, co-chair of the Alaska Ted Cruz team, says in recommending delegates, she’s looking for people she can trust who won’t abandon their candidate if the count gets close.


“I know probably the majority of everybody that applied. I don’t know all, but somebody does know,” said Eldge. “And I’ll be standing beside them [in Cleveland] in case they want to change their mind or think about changing their mind,” she joked.


“We all have the back-room bug,” said Jim Crawford with the Alaska Trump team. “You all set what strategy you’ve got. You know Cruz and Trump are very close in Alaska and obviously, we’ve got a good relationship with a lot of Cruz people.”


All 28 delegates and 25 alternates pay their own way to Cleveland, which the party estimates to cost between $2,000 and $3,000. More than 159 district people are vying for the opportunity.


“If you’re a policy wonk-nerd like I am, it is definitely worth your money,” said Sam Moore, who’s hoping to become one of the five Rubio delegates. “It’s like Mardi Gras for politics.”


Former Lieutenant Governor Mead Treadwell is part of the committee that will select delegates. He says the party is looking for diversity as part of the criteria.


“Men and women, young and old, newcomers to the party, and older folks who’ve been active with the party,” he said.


The Alaska GOP will also choose a new chairman Saturday. Ann Brown of Fairbanks and Tuckerman Babcock of Palmer have stepped forward as candidates for the position, which is expected to be a close vote.