Sanders fan hijacks mic at Michigan Dem breakfast

Jonathan Oosting, and Maureen Feighan
The Detroit News

King of Prussia, Pa. — Ingham County Prosecutor and former state Sen. Gretchen Whitmer on Monday helped Michigan delegates kick off the Democratic National Convention with an all-woman breakfast, a nod to the pending nomination of Hillary Clinton for president.

But the loudest cheers of the morning weren’t for Clinton. They were from Bernie Sanders’ delegates, who wore T-shirts and buttons supporting the Vermont senator and cheered loudly at every mention of his name.

At one point in Monday’s breakfast, delegate Leesha Fagan of Grand Rapids hijacked an open microphone to protest the primary days after leaked emails appeared to suggest the Democratic National Committee worked to undermine the Sanders campaign to benefit Clinton.

“This election was not free and fair,” declared Fagan, a retired teacher, who said Sanders’ candidacy represents a revolution that this country needs. “I’m not here to support Hillary Clinton. I’m here because of Bernie Sanders.”

Fagan says even though Sanders endorsed Clinton last week, his campaign is not done.

“It is not over,” she said. “There are a lot of us that are going to do whatever we can (to support Bernie).”

The convention will formally begin Monday afternoon as the party seeks to bring together delegates for each candidate despite a WikiLeaks scandal that prompted DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz to announce that she would step down at the final gavel.

Sanders will be the last speaker Monday night at the convention and is expected to reaffirm his endorsement of Clinton, said Robby Mook, Clinton’s campaign manager.

“He is coming to double down on that endorsement and unite the party and make sure she wins,” Mook told reporters Monday morning.

Whitmer, who traveled to Philadelphia with her two daughters, used the breakfast to highlight the historic nature of Clinton’s pending status as the first female presidential nominee for a major political party.

“Sherry and Sidney don’t have any idea the America in which I grew up, because it never dawned on me that we might have a president of color. It never dawned on me as a kid that we might have a woman president,” she said. “…We had to come a long ways, but we’ve got a lot more distance to travel.”

Whitmer also took a few jabs at Republicans, who held their convention last week in Cleveland.

Michelle Obama, set to speak Monday night along with Sanders, “has got to be one of the most inspiring women on the planet right now — just ask Melania Trump,” Whitmer said, referencing alleged plagiarism in a speech delivered by the wife of Republican nominee Donald Trump.

Whitmer was joined at the breakfast by U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell of Dearborn, state Sen. Rebekah Warren of Ann Arbor, Detroit Council President Brenda Jones, UAW Vice President Cindy Estrada and more.

Dingell praised Sanders, who won Michigan’s March 8 primary, but urged delegates to rally behind Clinton and work together to defeat Trump.

Sanders “made issues that we all care about be part of this platform,” she said. “We’ve all got to pull together, because the choice is stark, and we really have to help everyone know that.”

Michigan Democratic Chairman Brandon Dillon predicted that “you’re going to see a very unified party” by the end of the convention despite the email controversy and Wasserman Schultz resignation

“That was obviously an issue that came up, but unlike the Republican side, it was dealt with pretty quickly,” Dillon said. “We’re going to focus on all the speakers who are going to talk about Hillary Clinton and how we’re going to be stronger together, as opposed to the divisive rhetoric you heard in Cleveland.”

Lena Thompson of Detroit, who sat on the party platform committee, said she will work to help Democrats lower down on the ballot but is unhappy that Clinton is poised to end up on top.

“It’s her convention, but the votes have not happened,” she said, holding out hope for an unlikely attempt to deny Clinton the nomination. “So there still is an opportunity. There is still lobbying going on.”

Twitter: @JonathanOosting

Staff Writer Chad Livengood contributed.