Local Superdelegates Say Their Voice Should Count

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(Sacramento, CA)
Friday, February 22, 2008

If you’ve kept up with the news in the last few weeks, chances are you’ve heard an awful lot about those superdelegates.  They’re the nearly 800 Democratic National Convention delegates who can vote for whichever candidate they wish.  Around 10 of California’s 66 superdelegates live in or near Sacramento, and some are just as undecided as their peers around the country.  KXJZ caught up with two of them to find out who they are … and what’s on their minds. 

It might be old news to political junkies that some top Democratic officials could pick the party’s nominee.  But out on the street in East Sacramento, it’s more like ... super-what? 
Ben: “Does anyone know what superdelegates are?”
Students: “No, no. (Laughter) I don’t.”
Well, Democratic superdelegates are members of Congress, governors, party elders and party professionals who can vote for whichever candidate they want at the Democratic National Convention.  Even if the voters pick someone else. 
Here’s one of them: 
Ybarra: “Steven Ybarra, and I’m the chair of the DNC Hispanic Voting Rights Caucus.” 
Ybarra’s not some big politician.  He lives in Midtown Sacramento with his wife and his cat, works at home, and listens to NPR all the time. 
NPR Sound: “I’m Terry Gross, and this is Fresh Air.” 
Ybarra says superdelegates pick a candidate with the party’s best interest in mind.  But he knows it’s a huge responsibility. 
Ybarra: “Suppose it’s my vote?  Suppose I’m the one?  America’s come down to one votes a lot of times in its history.  And I think that’s a good thing sometimes.” 
So what goes into a decision like this? 
Ybarra: “It is a gut feeling in some respects of what it is that we think a person can do. … And I listen with my eyes, I listen with my ears and I listen with my heart so that I can figure out what it is that people are trying to say.” 
Ybarra is most concerned about picking the most electable candidate.  For him, that’s the candidate with the strongest plan to win the Latino vote in November. 
Electability also matters to Rancho Murietta resident Aleita Huguenin, the chair of the DNC’s Western States Caucus.  But since she represents 13 western states, she’s waiting for all of them to weigh in before making up her mind. 
Huguenin: “My role as a convention delegate isn’t much different from the people I saw elected in classrooms in Montana or Nevada or Oregon or Washington.  We’re gonna reflect the vote as it was given in our state and move it to a decision.”

Political analysts widely believe neither Clinton nor Obama will win a majority of delegates picked by voters.  And if that’s the case, it will be up to the superdelegates to push someone over the top.  Which brings us to the biggest question of all: Would the superdelegates ever reverse the voters’ choice?  If it’s close, say Ybarra and Huguenin, they’d have to make a tough decision.  Here’s Huguenin: 
Huguenin: “The whole goal here is to take back the White House after all of these Bush years and see if we can’t turn it around.” 
Back on the street, local resident Tom Hutcheon says it’s fine with him if the superdelegates pick the most electable Democrat. 
Hutcheon: “Sending one candidate to the general election knowing that they may not fare so well is contrary to the party in general, so their ultimate game is to win the election.” 
But others, like Vietnam vet Joseph Giles, think that would show voters that their voice doesn’t count. 
Giles: “What they’re saying is, they don’t think you’re intelligent enough to vote the way for the interests of the country.  So they get these superdelegates to say, okay, we know what’s good for you.  No you don’t know what’s good for me!  I know what’s good for myself.”
And some superdelegates, like longtime Democratic strategist Donna Brazile, think Giles has a point.  Brazile has said she’ll quit her party position if the superdelegates go against the will of the voters and decide the nomination.