Obama-Clinton passions continue to run high at Democratic Convention

A Hillary Clinton supporter waves her sign during Saturday’s Island County Democrats convention in Langley. - Michaela Marx Wheatley / The Record
A Hillary Clinton supporter waves her sign during Saturday’s Island County Democrats convention in Langley.
— image credit: Michaela Marx Wheatley / The Record

LANGLEY — Island County Democrats resolved this weekend that President Bush should be impeached, marijuana should be legalized and the Patriot Act should be repealed.

But the most heated discussion still centered around who would be the better president: Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama.

Island County Democrats came together Saturday to elect delegates to move on to the 2nd Congressional Caucus, to be held in Mount Vernon on May 17.

The gym at the Langley Middle School was split into two sides. On the Obama-side of the room, an overwhelming majority of convention-goers boasted in their candidate's success. Barack Obama is still Island County's top pick, and has remained in front of the former first lady through both the caucuses and presidential primary in February.

On the left, the Clinton supporters made up in spirit what they lacked in delegate counts. People sported lots of stickers, buttons and waved red, white-and-blue Hillary signs.

"Like most convention-goers, I'm uplifted by the surge of enthusiasm for both candidates," said Eve Parrish, a Clinton supporter.

She had stood among other Hillary supporters outside in the rain, waving signs and greeting delegates coming in.

"I am a strong supporter of Hillary Clinton. I feel that she is the only candidate with the strength and ability to end the mistaken Iraq war and work collaboratively with Congress to bring about needed changes to restore our country’s health and respect," she said.

But only the minority of Island County voters felt the same.

In the county caucuses in February, Obama won by a landslide of 68 percent over Clinton with 31 percent.

This weekend his dominance increased even more.

By 11 a.m. Saturday, 350 delegates and 129 alternates had shown up, 32 of whom were eventually seated to replace absent delegates.

The results weren’t surprising.

In the first vote, 107 delegates voted for Clinton and 275 for Obama, while one man remained uncommitted. The vote went 72 percent to 28 percent in Obama's favor.

In the second round of voting, Clinton lost more votes. She received 103 votes, or 27 percent, while Obama got 279 votes, or 73 percent.

Obama supporters were proud.

“We gained 5 percent, which a representative from the state organization for Obama wants you to know is pretty hard to do, since our percentage in February was already high,” said Diane Jhueck, an Obama supporter.

"On a personal level, I find myself profoundly moved by the cooperative spirit and new depth of activism that pervades his campaign at all levels," Jhueck said about her candidate. "I think he is already leading us to a new understanding of what it means to be an individual in the community."

"On a practical level, Obama gained one more delegate at the convention on the 19th, from what he had at the February caucus," Jhueck added.

The dwindling support for Clinton was hard to take for her supporters.

And something else soured their day. Clinton lost 22 votes through absent delegates while Obama lost only 13, said Paulette Becker, the credentialing table chairwoman.

That passions would run high was clear even before the convention started.

Clinton supporters had pressed Becker to allow observers on the tables where delegates checked in before the vote, because they felt the tables were overwhelmingly stacked with Obama supporters.

Clinton supporter Billie Dravef said before the convention that Clinton supporters wanted the tables staffed in an even split between Clinton and Obama supporters. But Becker, an Obama supporter, refused to balance the tables even though trained Clinton people were available to provide a balanced representation.

Becker said she didn’t want to disappoint her volunteers that had prepared for the event, and that she always remained neutral in her position and even told volunteers not to wear attire that would promote one candidate over the other.

“It’s an ethical and integrity question for me,” Becker said.

She said Clinton supporters had been very aggressive in the weeks leading up to the convention, demanding to be seated at the credentialing tables.

“A couple of people started bad-mouthing Obama supporters,” Becker recalled. “It was very upsetting. They said Obama supporters were cheating.”

As things heated up, Becker refused to allow additional Clinton supporters to observe the credentialing process. Organizers even threatened to shut down the entire process and, therefore, the entire voting process if non-volunteers tried to observe or interfere with the credentialing process.

The criticism was an echo to complaints after the February caucus at South Whidbey High School, where Clinton supporters claimed they were treated unfairly and Obama supporters were not properly vetted before they were allowed to caucus.

The fuss over fairness continued in the lead-up to Saturday.

“The credentials people are in charge of registering qualified delegates and alternates, and also to provide the tallying of preference votes,” Parrish said. “This is clearly a job susceptible to unfair manipulation of data and one that deserves a fair and open process of observation and participation.”

A visibly frustrated Becker said the incident mirrors national events on the campaign trail.

“It shows a lot of what Clinton does right now,” she said.

Once the convention rolled around, though, the camps had settled down and everything went smoothly. Those who had earlier expressed concerns seemed satisfied at the process.

“I did look in the door a few times and it seemed that the process was orderly,” Parrish said.

“We have to rely on the integrity of the people who were involved with credentialing – it’s just too bad there couldn’t have been supporter parity in that group,” she said.

“All in all, I think Island County Democrats can be proud of how well our convention was conducted. People I know went away feeling good about being able to meet one another and share enthusiasm,” Parrish added.

At the end of the day, 18 delegates and nine alternates will represent Obama and seven delegates and four alternates will represent Clinton at the 2nd Congressional Caucus.

There, 51 congressional district Level delegates and nine alternates will be elected. District Level delegates constitute a special group called the Elections Committee.

At-large delegates and alternates will be elected by sub-caucuses of the Elections Committee. The at-large delegates and alternates can come from any region of the state.

The state convention will be held in Spokane on June 14.

While Clinton and Obama took center stage at Saturday’s event, the local Democratic candidates for the fall election introduced themselves to the crowd.

Helen Price Johnson wants to be the South End County Commissioner.

“There is a saying — if you want something done get a busy woman to do it,” Price Johnson said.

“I come from a long line of busy women,” she added.

The position is held by Republican Phil Bakke now.

Commissioner candidate Angie Homola wants to replace north end Commissioner Mac McDowell and she put on the fighting gloves. She accused McDowell of irresponsible decisions especially in planning and environmental protection.

After their speeches, Price Johnson and Homola got standing ovations by the crowd.

“These two women that we have are absolutely dynamite,” party chairman Marshall Goldberg said.

There has never been a female commissioner in Island County, and the Island County Democrats have two qualified woman for the job, he added.

“It was exciting that the people’s enthusiasm from the February caucuses carried over,” Goldberg said.

The Democrats also adopted the state party platform.

During the all-day event that began at 9 a.m. and was still going strong at 5 p.m., Island County Democrats also voted on 19 resolutions ranging from impeaching President Bush and Vice President Cheney and legalizing marijuana — both of which passed, to making benefits only available for U.S. citizens as well as hiring only nationals — which both failed.

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