By Frank D. Russo
Yesterday evening, I moderated an after dinner panel discussion amongst eight California Superdelegates, including two who are uncommitted, at the annual California Democratic Council Convention in Fresno. Despite being in session for a dozen or so hours before the dinner event kicked off, the room was packed with CDC delegates who did not tire and stayed for an hour and a half to ask questions and hear from those on the dais. I’ll have a fuller report later on the many interesting comments of these grassroots Democrats, all of whom were elected to their positions, and are not going to the Denver Convention because of appointment or their position.
What caught my ear were the comments made by Garry Shay, a well versed and insightful California Democratic Party Rules Chair and a member of the important Democratic National Committee Rules Committee, who said he anticipates the May 31, 2008 meeting of this body to be important and for it to resolve questions surrounding the seating of delegates from Florida and Michigan.
Shay is known as a straight shooter who is well versed in rules and chooses his words carefully. He announced around the time of the California primary that he was supporting Hillary Clinton. He, as well as the other seven superdelegates on the panel--and another who had to leave early but spoke to the crowd--had some interesting things to say about what this means. But Shay’s analysis of the Florida and Michigan situation was very interesting.
He was more predictive of the Florida delegation, which he said, based on putting bits and pieces of information together, would be seated, each with a one-half vote. He said the resolution of the Michigan delegates, where all Democratic candidates except Hillary Clinton, took their names off the ballot at the request of the Democratic National Party, was “anybody’s guess.” But being told to arrive a day early and to schedule plane flights coming home a day after the meeting, he said that there will be a big push to resolve these issues before the convention. The Rules and Bylaws Committee has jurisdiction on this issue until June 29. If it goes to the convention, it will then be handled by the credentials committee.
Here is what Shay had to say, verbatim:
Question: Are any of the superdelegates on the credentials committee and do you have any idea what will happen with Florida and Michigan?
[Crowd laughter with someone shouting out “touché!]
Shay: Well actually the gentleman is correct. The question is the credentials committee if you are going down to the convention to determine this. But both Alice (Huffman) and I sit on the Rules Committee and we have jurisdiction over this matter until June 29th. And on May 31st, there’s a meeting of the Rules and Bylaws Committee in Washington, D.C.
I anticipate that this matter is going to be fleshed out there between all the parties concerned. I think the party is looking at this as being a very important meeting of the Rules and Bylaws Committee, because this is the first time that I can ever recall getting a memo from them saying that we want you to fly in the night before and not making your plans for leaving until the day after. So they intend to resolve the matter at that time.
Currently, the Rules and Bylaws Committee position on this is that both states are stripped of both of their pledged delegates and their superdelegates. Challenges were filed by both Florida and Michigan members, challenging that decision on two different grounds. One of them was whether or not the superdelegates should be seated from those states because the charter of the Democratic Party says that the superdelegates shall be delegates to the convention. The other was whether or not it should be a 100% penalty or a 50% penalty.
So those are issues that are going to be coming before the Rules and Bylaws Committee once again. And also complicating the matter with regard to Michigan is the fact that not all candidates’ names were on the ballot.
What I anticipate will happen is that—and I have not received any communications from anybody, this is just my own thoughts on the matter—that the superdelegates will likely be seated from both states. That Florida will be seated with a half delegate for each pledged delegate based upon the January results. The concept there being that there must be some punishment for violating the rules, and at the same time, excluding those two states is very difficult, and as far as Michigan is concerned, that’s anybody’s guess. I have no idea what is going to happen with them.
[Fellow panel member says to Shay “Explain why.”]
Well, there are a lot of things that happened with Michigan. First of all, the primary law was challenged as to its constitutionality and it was thrown out. So, there’s no law supporting the Michigan primary.
There’s the fact that Hillary Clinton’s name and the uncommitted slate was the only thing that was on the ballot in Michigan because the Democratic National Committee asked the other candidates to withdraw their names from the ballot. So, here you have the institution itself asking people to pull their names off the ballot.
[Fellow panel member says: “Not the other ones; they asked all of them.]
All of them, yes. That’s what--I don’t know what I just said-But, OK, that’s what I thought I said.
In any event, and you also have the uncommitted slate on the ballot—you have an uncommitted slate on the ballot and, you know, one of the proposals that came forward that I’ve seen is: Why not give half of the delegation to Clinton and half of it to Obama and that way it won’t make any difference and people can be seated. Well, what do you do with the fact that there was an uncommitted delegation that got votes and is entitled to delegates? I think that one is a whole big mess.