Superdelegates in spotlight as Sanders' campaign wanes

As Bernie Sanders called for reforms to the Democratic Party Tuesday, Oregon was poised to select the last of its delegates Saturday to cast votes at the national convention in Philadelphia in July.

In a speech streamed live, the Vermont senator called on Democrats to recruit new leadership for the party, eliminate super delegates and open up primaries to independents.

“We need an electoral process that is worthy of the Democratic Party,” Sanders said.

Sanders made the comments before he was scheduled to meet with Clinton Tuesday night to discuss his plans for his waning campaign. Clinton has captured the needed delegates to become the presumptive nominee for president, and some members of the party have called on Sanders to concede and endorse his opponent, according to multiple media reports.

Super delegates are party leaders and elected officials who participate in the Democratic National Convention largely by virtue of their position. Their choices don’t have to reflect the popular vote, and in most cases, don’t.

Nationwide, super delegates overwhelmingly pledged their support to Hillary Clinton, and closed primaries in Oregon and other states edged out independents from helping to choose both the Democratic and Republican nominees.

“The idea that we had, in this case, 400 super delegates pledged to a candidate some eight months or more before the first ballot was cast is to my mind is absurd, and we need to also make sure that super delegates do not live in a world of their own but reflect the views of the people in their own state,” Sanders said in his speech Tuesday.

Despite those obstacles, Sanders won the Oregon primary May 17 with 54 percent of the vote. Sixty-one of the state’s delegates are pledged to candidates according to the popular vote, but the state’s 13 super delegates may select whichever candidate they want.

Seven out of the 13 have pledged their support to Clinton, three have pledged to Sanders, and three have not revealed their choice.

Super delegates backing Clinton include Gov. Kate Brown, Sen. Ron Wyden, Rep. Kurt Schrader, Rep. Earl Blumenauer, Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum and party First Vice-Chair Karen Packer.

"I understand that aspects of the super delegate system have become controversial,” Gov. Brown said in a statement Tuesdsay. “As long as it is the system that we have in place, I think the most important thing a super delegate can do within this system is be completely transparent about who they are supporting and why. I chose to make my endorsement public back in March for that reason."

U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio, DPO Chair Frank Dixon, National Committeewoman Laura Calvo have yet to pledge their support, said Brad Martin, executive director of the Democratic Party of Oregon. The three did not immediately return messages from the Pamplin Media/EO Media Capital Bureau seeking comment.

The state’s five congressional districts chose 41 of the state’s delegates June 4. The party will select its 20 at-large delegates at 1 p.m. Saturday at the statewide convention at the Pacific Northwest Carpenters Institute, 4222 N.E. 158th Ave. in Portland.

By Paris Achen
Portland Tribune Capital Bureau Reporter
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