DEMS CAUCUS IN STATE TODAY POLITICS: PARTY TO PICK OBAMA, CLINTON DELEGATES TO ATTEND NATIONAL CONVENTION.
Thousands of Democratic activists, including dozens from the San Fernando Valley, will gather across California today vying to be chosen for the elite cadre of pledged presidential delegates who will head to the Democratic National Convention.
A total of 21 slots as delegates and four as alternates are up for grabs in the four congressional districts that cover the San Fernando Valley. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's supporters will elect 12 delegates and four alternates in those four districts. Sen. Barack Obama's backers will elect nine delegates.
But Clinton's threat to fight for Obama's pledged presidential delegates all the way to the convention has roiled Obama supporters heading into today's caucuses.
Last week, the top national official for Obama's campaign stepped in to head off a potentially embarrassing backlash from some 900 supporters who had been purged by the state campaign from running for the congressional district-level delegate spots.
"There has been an extraordinary outpouring of grass-roots support for Sen. Obama among Democrats and independents in all 53 California congressional districts," Obama national campaign manager David Plouffe said in an e-mail to delegate applicants, notifying them that they had been reinstated.
"In recognition of this tremendous enthusiasm, our campaign has asked the California Democratic Party to allow all persons who have filed to be a district delegate candidate for Sen. Obama at the Democratic National Convention to participate in the caucuses this Sunday."
The controversial cuts, which state Democratic officials said would have been unprecedented, were made midweek in an effort to help elect longtime supporters as delegates who would be less likely to bolt for Clinton, one Obama campaign official said.
"Real concern was expressed to me about Clinton's vow of fighting all the way to the convention for pledged delegates and the fear of being infiltrated by (delegate) candidates saying they were for Obama when they were actually for Clinton," said Peter Rothenberg of Northridge, who will be in charge of today's Obama caucus in Rep. Brad Sherman's 27th District.
"That's the only reason I can think of for this pruning," he said.
By contrast, the Clinton campaign cut only about 40 district-level candidates from competing for a delegate slot.
The district-level delegates are distributed among California's 53 congressional districts, with 134 going to Clinton -- because she won 42 congressional districts in the state's Feb. 5 primary -- and 107 going to Obama, who won 11 congressional districts.
San Fernando Valley political activist Marilyn Grunwald of Canoga Park -- an Obama delegate in Rep. Henry Waxman's 30th Congressional District -- was among those notified they were initially being cut.
Grunwald said she was disappointed that her loyalty to Obama was questioned.
"I supported (John) Edwards until he dropped out, but ever since then I have been doing all I can on behalf of Senator Obama," Grunwald said.
In Rep. Adam Schiff's 29th Congressional District, veteran Latino activist Alex Jacinto of South Pasadena -- originally a supporter of New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson -- said the Obama campaign had chosen "to slash and burn its list of supporters."
"I just hope this doesn't come back to bite (the Obama campaign)," Jacinto said.
Grunwald, Jacinto and others who had been targeted for cuts said the removal of so many grass-roots supporters from seeking delegate spots ran counter to Obama's reputation for reaching out to all voters, including those outside the political establishment.
Obama state officials did not return calls. But Bob Mulholland, a spokesman for the state Democratic Party, said such cuts are necessary every presidential election year because some people might be supporters of another candidate or have "extenuating circumstances."
Grunwald and Jacinto said they understand the Obama campaign's concern in light of Clinton's remarks that she believes pledged delegates still may be up for grabs, even though they were won by presidential candidates in primaries and caucuses.
While Democratic National Committee rules state that pledged delegates "shall in all good conscience reflect the sentiments of those who elected them," the rules do not legally bind them to vote for the candidate to which they have been designated.
Still, Grunwald said being originally cut from the list of district-level delegates candidates will not weaken her support for Obama.
"As I understand it, the rules allow pruning by the campaign so that their die-hard volunteers have a better chance of winning and also to avoid folks just running for any candidate to get themselves to the convention," Grunwald said.
"That is fine, as far as it goes. However, the process for coming to the result should (have been) made public."
Grunwald said that if she is unsuccessful today, she still hopes to win an Obama delegate slot to the Democratic National Convention in Denver in August when California selects its at-large delegates on May 18.
Some at-large delegates will be chosen from among lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender voters, the handicapped and others not already represented on the state delegation.
"I intend to do everything I can," said Grunwald, "to see that Barack Obama is our next president."
HOW VALLEY DELEGATES WILL DIVIDE
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|Publication:||Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)|
|Date:||Apr 13, 2008|
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