Utah's Final Superdelegate Could Reverse The Will Of The Voters

Democratic National Convention delegates fall into many categories — DNC members, pledged and unpledged elected officials, pledged district and at large delegates, alternates, and add-on delegates. Nearly the last of these to be picked in most states are the add-on delegates. Intended to give statewide winners a boost and balance affirmative action goals, the add-on delegates are chosen by different methods in each state. Some states allow the Democratic Party executive committee to choose them while others defer to the body of state delegates or central committee. In Utah we used to allow the party chair to hand pick our single add-on delegate all by himself.

This year we are doing something different. The district level delegates are choosing our add-on at the state convention on May 9th. Last week a similar process led to serious problems in D.C.

Add-on delegates are technically superdelegates and therefore not required to pledge support to any candidate or to make any effort to follow the returns of primaries in their states or districts.

The District Of Columbia Democratic Party was assigned two add-on delegates. The overwhelming majority of the Democratic State [sic] Committee, who choose the add-ons, favor Obama as did three fourths of primary voters in D.C. But dozens of Obama supporters signed up to run while many fewer Clinton supporters were set to divide up the votes of Clinton backers on the committee. The Obama campaign made an effort to pick just two, but couldn’t persuade enough candidates to drop out. In the end there were seven Obama candidates and two Clinton candidates. City Councilwoman and Obama supporter Yvette Alexander was elected but City Councilman and Clinton supporter Harry Thomas, Jr. managed to slip in past a divided Obama field by two votes.

Now Utah is facing the same situation.

Our district level delegates will be pledged to Obama 9-6 and they are the ones who will be caucusing to select the add-on. The caucus will take place after district delegates are elected but before pledged PLEO delegates are chosen on the evening of May 9th. But today’s list of candidates who have filed for the add-on slot (rules require it be a woman to balance the additional male pledged delegate):

  • County Councilwoman Jenny Wilson (Clinton)
  • Former State Party Treasurer Lisa Allcott (Clinton)
  • Laura Arellano (Clinton)
  • Judy Barnett (Clinton)
  • Connie Nielson (Clinton)
  • Lisa Wharton (Clinton)
  • Senator Patricia Jones (Obama)
  • Former Salt Lake City Mayor Deedee Corradini (Obama)
  • Former State Party Chair Meghan Holbrook (Obama)
  • Former Salt Lake Party Chair Megan Risbon (Obama)
  • Lisa Ashman (Obama)
  • Beth Holbrook (Obama)
  • Tania Knauer (Obama)
  • Jan Lovett (Obama)
  • Jacqueline Orton (Obama)
  • Gail M. Turpin (Obama)
  • Josie Valdez (Obama)

Six Clinton and eleven Obama candidates. It’s worse than that, however. Jenny Wilson is justly popular for her work on her county council, was a close candidate for Salt Lake City mayor last year, and already represents about three fourths of the delegates that will be voting for the district delegate slot she is also running for. Wilson is likely to already be a delegate before the caucus to pick the add-on starts. The others are also running for other delegate slots but may or may not be picked for them.

The most likely field will have eight or nine Obama candidates running against four or five Clinton candidates. It’s fairly likely that smart and hardworking activist Lisa Allcott will be able to consolidate the Clinton support. I’ve seen her work on campaigns and she has the ability to do it. Meanwhile serious heavyweights like Pat Jones, Meghan Holbrook, nearly-state-party chair Jan Lovett, Megan Risbon, and others may be splitting the Obama votes. All it will take is some division in choice between the pledged Obama delegates to give Clinton a good chance at a big pickup in Utah on May 9th.

It’s just one more great reason to attend the Utah Democratic State Convention May 9th and 10th at the Cal Rampton Salt Palace in downtown Salt Lake City. Both delegates and citizen-spectators are welcome. There’s no announcement online yet. Call (801) 328-1212 for information. Your county convention makes great weekend fun, too.

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