At convention, Hawaii Democrats divided over superdelegate system

Party divided over superdelegate system as 2016 Democratic State Convention kicks off
Published: May. 28, 2016 at 8:35 PM HST|Updated: May. 29, 2016 at 12:37 PM HST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn
(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Nearly 1,000 Hawaii Democrats gathered at the Sheraton Waikiki on Saturday for the kick-off of the 2016 Democratic Party of Hawaii state convention.

And this year, the biggest point of conflict this year is between supporters of the two Democratic presidential contenders -- Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.

Sanders has the support of many with no experience in party politics, facing off against some of the state's most veteran politicians.

"A lot of us are really new to the party and most of the people here today have been here for many years," said Chelsea Kent, Sanders Hawaii campaign organizer. "We're now just coming in with this huge influx of energy because we're all huge Bernie people."

Kent is frustrated with the Democratic superdelegate system.

In March, in a near-record turnout, some 34,000 people showed up to cast votes in Hawaii's presidential preference poll.

Sanders won by a landslide, garnering 70 percent of the vote to Clinton's 30 percent.

The poll decided how many of Hawaii's 35 delegates go to each candidate -- 17 went to Sanders, and the rest went to Clinton. But Hawaii's 10 superdelegates aren't decided by the vote, and most support Clinton.

Kent said the superdelegates should have to honor the vote.

"We worked really hard for that and there was hundreds of people in Hawaii who gave up their time and worked countless hours for that," said Kent. "I think the idea that there's 10 super delegates who don't have to honor that, is rude."

Superdelegates are mostly elected officials and party leaders.

They make up most of Clinton's lead in delegate cotes, but they can switch loyalties.

Sanders supporters want the rules changed to force superdelegates to follow the preference of party members, and maybe even change a few minds in this race.

"70 percent of the people in Hawaii wanted Bernie, so 70 percent of the superdelegates should vote with Bernie to represent the people they were elected to represent," Kent said.

Critics say it's not that easy.

"Part of how you run a campaign has been within the structures of the rules as they existed, so I think to basically change them now is really almost a due process issue," said former Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa. "I think the reason why they're superdelegates is because among the Democrats, they've always had a level of confidence in their elected officials and people of position that they know can make those decisions."

Democratic Party committees will discuss these specific issues at the Hawaii convention this weekend.

Clinton supporters are also proposing a rule change that would end same-day party registration at the caucus, a move Sanders supporters are calling sour grapes because their candidate lost Hawaii this year.

Copyright 2016 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.