Sanders’ Michigan delegate edge not full story

Chad Livengood
Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Bernie Sanders won Michigan’s Democratic presidential primary by more than 18,000 votes, but Hillary Clinton could end up capturing more delegates from the Great Lakes State in her quest for the nomination.

That’s because Clinton holds an endorsement advantage over the Vermont senator among the so-called super delegates — party leaders and members of Congress — who control 17 of Michigan’s 147 delegates.

Sanders’ victory earned him 67 pledged delegates to Clinton’s 63, based on the unofficial popular vote results, according to the Michigan Democratic Party.

But the remaining 17 super delegates are free to support either candidate at the Democratic National Convention in July — and the majority appear to be leaning toward Clinton.

The super delegates include U.S. Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters and U.S. Reps. John Conyers, Debbie Dingell, Dan Kildee, Brenda Lawrence and Sander Levin. All seven have publicly endorsed Clinton for president.

Michigan’s super delegates include 10 members of the Democratic National Committee. Among them is Democratic consultant Jill Alper, a close Clinton family ally who hosted a fundraiser for Hillary Clinton last summer.

Another super delegate is Al Garrett, president of the Michigan American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 25, which endorsed Clinton in the primary. Garrett did not return a message seeking comment Wednesday.

Super delegates are free to change their support at any time before the July 25-28 national convention in Philadelphia.

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After Tuesday’s contests in Michigan and three other states, Clinton has expanded her delegate lead to 1,221, including 461 super delegates. Sanders has 571 delegates, but just 25 of them are super delegates. To clinch the Democratic presidential nomination, a candidate has to earn 2,383 delegates in the state-by-state primaries and caucuses.

Brandon Dillon, chairman of the Michigan Democratic Party, is a super delegate but is remaining neutral while the Clinton-Sanders race continues.

“I’m not pledging anything at this point,” Dillon said. “The race still has a long ways to go.”

2016 presidential primary delegate tracker

The other super delegates are former Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer, Michigan Education Association President Steve Cook, attorney Barry Goodman, United Auto Workers Vice President Norwood Jewell, Oakland County Commissioner Nancy Quarles, University of Michigan Regent Shauna Ryder Diggs and Virgie Rollins, chair of the DNC Black Caucus.

Rollins said Wednesday she remains uncommitted.

Rank-and-file Democrats sometimes complain that the super delegate system gives the party establishment the ability to tip the scales in favor of one candidate.

Former Michigan Gov. Jim Blanchard said the super delegate dissent comes from the Democratic Party’s “protest wing.”

“There’s always that complaint, but party leaders count for something,” Blanchard said in an interview last week. “It’s important.”

Blanchard noted in the 2008 Democratic primary Clinton lost her early super delegate advantage in the primaries as they began throwing their support behind the eventual nominee, then-U.S. Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois.

The same could happen for Sanders if he were to begin winning states consistently.

“If Bernie were winning all of the primaries and not just a couple, the super delegates might look at him differently,” Blanchard said.

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