Sanders’ Mich. backers urge senator to stay in Dem race

Chad Livengood
Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Michigan supporters of Bernie Sanders are urging the Vermont U.S. senator to remain in the race for president after former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s advantage with superdelegates appeared to tip the Democratic presidential nomination in her favor.

Sanders supporters reacted angrily Tuesday after the Associated Press reported late Monday night that Clinton had wrapped up the nomination with newly won pledged delegates from Puerto Rico and a late surge of superdelegates pledging their votes to Clinton.

The media victory declaration came on the eve of Tuesday primaries in six states — including Sanders-friendly California — in the final bout of a presidential nominating contest that has unexpectedly shaken up the Democratic Party.

“To me, it looks like what I consider a very corrupt establishment trying to hammer that last nail in the coffin for Bernie Sanders,” said Lenka Perron, 50, a Sanders supporter from St. Clair Shores.

Sanders seemed to take heed of his supporters and indicated Tuesday he plans on taking his fight to the July 25-28 Democratic National Convention.

“Secretary Clinton does not have and will not have the requisite number of pledged delegates to secure the nomination,” the senator said in a statement. “She will be dependent on superdelegates who do not vote until July 25 and who can change their minds between now and then.”

With 814 more delegates than Sanders, Clinton has the minimum 2,383 delegates needed to become the first female to lead a major party’s presidential ticket in American history, the AP reported. It makes her poised to take on Republican nominee Donald Trump in what’s expected to be a tough November general election.

Clinton’s presumed nomination is being buoyed by 571 superdelegates — Democratic Party insiders and members of Congress — who have pledged to cast ballots for her at the convention.

Former Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer Sr., a Democratic National Committee member, has pledged his vote to Clinton as a superdelegate. Archer said Tuesday Sanders understood the party’s nominating process when the presidential campaign began a year ago.

“Nothing stopped Sen. Sanders from knocking on the door and asking for support from those of us who are superdelegates and, on the other hand, nothing stopped Secretary Clinton from doing the same thing,” Archer told The Detroit News.

But Sanders supporters contend the mainstream media and the Clinton campaign are declaring her the victor before a single superdelegate actually votes at the convention. When superdelegates aren’t factored into the delegate count, Clinton’s lead narrows from 814 to 291 delegates, according to AP’s count.

“It’s horrible because superdelegates don’t vote until the convention and they can change their vote,” said Elayne Petrucci of Trenton, a Sanders supporter and Detroit charter school theater teacher. “If we can make a case for Bernie, then we hope to influence them. Bernie trounces Trump in the polls.”

A May 24-26 Glengariff Group poll in Michigan released exclusively to The Detroit News and WDIV showed Sanders leading Trump by nearly 19 percentage points, 51.7 percent to 33 percent, while Clinton’s lead over the the New York businessman shrank to 4.5 percentage points — just outside the poll’s margin of error.

‘Revolution’ roils Democrats

Sanders has built a national movement, calling for a political “revolution” aimed at rooting out big money donors who finance the political campaigns for Republicans and Democrats alike and railing against decades of American trade and economic policy.

“Bernie has changed the conversation with climate change, with college tuition, these off-shore tax havens and big banks and how the average American is basically getting the shaft,” said Eric Anderson, a 48-year-old graphic designer from Hastings and Sanders supporter. “I think Sanders should take it all the way to the convention.”

The self-described democratic socialist upset Clinton in Michigan’s March 8 primary, defying predictions by pollsters and pundits alike who believed the state that carried Bill Clinton to victory twice in general elections in 1992 and 1996 would return the favor for his wife two decades later.

Judy Maiga, a Democratic activist from Grosse Ile, said Sanders should stay in the race until the Philadelphia convention to see how a Federal Bureau of Investigation probe into Clinton’s use of a private email server at the State Department plays out.

“For the first time in history, we have a nominee who is under an FBI investigation. That is definitely historic,” said Maiga, 53.

Maiga and other Sanders supporters said they have become disheartened by the Democratic Party’s nomination process and the use of super delegates to tilt nomination in Clinton’s favor before the convention.

“It’s not democratic,” said Jessica Rose Rieffel, a 32-year-old attorney and Sanders supporter from Bay City. “The democratic thing to do would be to get rid of the superdelegates.”

Maiga volunteered for the Sanders campaign this winter and said voters are turned off by the nominating process.

“The hardest thing to do is to get people to go out to vote because they say ‘it doesn’t matter, my vote doesn’t count, they’re going to put in who they want anyway,’ ” Maiga said.

Nominee declaration irks

Detroiter Virgie Rollins, chair of the Democratic National Committee Black Caucus, is one of Michigan’s 17 superdelegates and said Tuesday she remains undecided.

Rollins said the media’s reporting that Clinton won the nomination will hinder voter turnout in Tuesday’s primaries.

“It has made many people angry because it’s a move to suppress the vote today in the states that are voting; it’s unfair to the folks who are still voting,” Rollins said in an email to The Detroit News.

Brighton native Jon Naudi, 37, is an attorney in Los Angeles and changed his party affiliation from independent to Democratic to vote for Sanders in Tuesday’s California primary.

Naudi said it’s “premature” for the media to declare Clinton the victor and a mistake for superdelegates to hand her the nomination without considering the enthusiasm Sanders has brought to the party.

“The Democrats run the risk of disenfranchising entire generations of voters,” Naudi said. “If you close out people 45 and younger, you could lose them forever.”

Ethan Petzold, 18, of Canton, was recently elected to be a Sanders delegate at the national convention for the 11th Congressional District. The Canton Salem High School senior hopes Sanders will stay in the race until the convention so he can influence the party’s platform of public policy positions.

“Having him still in the race makes him a figure in the party that cannot be ignored,” Petzold said.

Despite the divisions the Clinton-Sanders match-up has exposed, most political analysts expect traditional Democratic voters who sided with Sanders to move into Clinton’s column for the general election against Trump.

Lori Jo Vest, a 53-year-old customer service consultant from Troy, said she supported Sanders in the primaries but believes Clinton would have more general election appeal because of Sanders’ “extreme” positions on everything from trade to increased taxes.

“I’ve got a 75-year-old mother who firmly believes Bernie’s going to bring communism,” Vest said. “Hillary is more palatable than Bernie because they hear socialist and get scared.”

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Twitter: @ChadLivengood