March 30, 2008
The Senate conventions

The Chron story on the Democrats' Senate conventions yesterday is pretty much in line with what I've heard from folks who attended theirs - some were chaotic, some went smoothly, all had a lot of people and took a long time. I'm just going to link to various reports so you can get a feel for what happened.

- BOR reported real-time results from all the county and Senate conventions. As of midnight, they had Obama leading in delegates 56.05% to 43.95%, with 133 conventions representing 72% of all delegates reporting.

- According to Stace, the SD04 convention was "Smooooth" and featured numerous candidates who were well-received.

- Tammy has some concerns with how the delegates acted in Brazoria County.

- Rep. Aaron Pena reports from Hidalgo County.

- Hal says the SD18 convention was "everything anyone could possibly expect in this singular year of high interest and involvement", which mainly means it was confusing.

- Muse has some iPhone-blogged reports from SD17, including this complaint about a committee chair not following the rules.

- There's loads of through-the-day posts and updates at the various media blogs: Political Junkie, Houston Politics, PoliTex, Postcards, Trail Blazers, and the Observer blog.

So. Those of you who attended a Senate convention, what was your impression? Leave a comment and let me know.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on March 30, 2008 to Election 2008

My precinct (54) came to a gentleman's agreement that split our two state convention delegates among Clinton and Obama and allowed folks to head home in the early afternoon before waiting for the official credential process to play itself out. That was going to be the result no matter what because we were almost evenly split (16-13 for Obama). We did something similar at the precinct convention where both sides agreed not to challenge the validity of the other side's participants. One of the old hands from our precinct, who as on the credentials committee, assured us that this was OK.

I haven't emailed anyone yet to find out for sure if they accepted our state delegates based on our agreement.

Whitmire spoke and said it was time to end the caucuses and go to a single vote and I wholeheartedly agree, even though I've had fun at the conventions.

Posted by: Kevin C on March 30, 2008 8:45 AM

I attended the SD13 convention at TSU yesterday, and I was amazed at the numbers (which I believe were approximately 3,700 on the temporary rolls we approved at the start of the convention). Based solely on my gut feeling, there were about 3 Obama delegates for every Clinton delegate in attendance.

Some of the highlights (or low lights) from our convention:

* Most of the politicians were well received, with one particular exception -- Sheila Jackson-Lee got absolutely pounded with a mix of boos and chants for Obama when she attempted to speak. It took about 3-5 minutes for the rancor to subside before she could speak. All she could do during that time was say "I'll wait for you - that's what a public servant does." Hopefully it sent her a clear message regarding her choices as a superdelegate.

* The credentials committee had a bit of a scandal when two alleged Obama supporters on the committee flipped to Clinton and proceeded to assist in approving challenges to Obama delegates left and right.

* The convention floor was the sight of a long credentials battle to undo the credentials committee's attempts to disqualify Obama delegates. I would estimate that it took a good 1 1/2 to 2 hours to get to a point where we could approve the credentials report as amended by the convention.

* Clinton delegates, clearly outnumbered by Obama delegates, began making repeated points of order on matters that ranged from irrational to frivolous. One woman repeatedly objected on the basis that we didn't know that all 3,700 people were actually delegates (hello - you approved the temporary rolls!). Others repeatedly attempted to use points of order to redo votes that occurred 20-30 minutes ago. It seemed that the strategy was to delay the process as long as possible in the hopes that they could bring everything to a halt in a sickening battle of attrition.

Overall, I was very impressed with the organization of the Obama campaign in keeping the delegates together and keeping us informed of what was occurring at the committee level. I was disgusted with the maneuvering of the Clinton campaign and the attempts to circumvent the process for their own ends. Luckily, the process continued as it should and we were able to focus on the business at hand.

Of course, I arrived at 7:00am and didn't leave until 3:15pm, sometime shortly after the credentials battle ended. Others stayed until past 4:00pm when it became apparent that the only business remaining were resolutions. I have no idea what time the convention finished, but I can't imagine it was before 5:00pm.

Posted by: Bobby L. Warren on March 30, 2008 10:01 AM

Also at SD13, and the previous commenter summed it up very well.

For an Obama supporter (which I am) it was a mixture of waiting, pride in the turnout of like minds, etc. I imagine it was pretty rough on the Clinton supporters as they were vastly outnumbered - in my opinion more than 3 to 1, more like 4-5 to 1, judging by the floor votes.

I don't recall a single "Hillary" chant gaining traction, but over, and over Obama chants. Personally, that was great.

I worry though that some Clinton folks left hurt, angry, demoralized, or all three.

Really there should have been credentialing at the door, despite the inevitable lines it would have created. Give folks a badge, or beads, or some other visible recognition. I did see with my own eyes a Clinton alternate delegate participating in the standing vote, but didn't bother with a challenge since they were so outnumbered anyway.

But all in all I support the caucus process, and have thrown my name in the hat to occupy my local precinct chair spot. Its a system worth spending the time to improve. Inspiring, even - it just needs improving.

Posted by: Michael on March 30, 2008 1:24 PM

I was in SD 13 as an Obama delegate, and I stayed till the end of the convention. I have to say, I was disgusted.
The Obama campaign cheated at every opportunity they had. I didn't wear any paraphenalia yesterday because I didn't want to polarize people, and I'm glad I didn't. Had I been wearing anything related to obama, I'd have taken it off and thrown it away when Rep. Jackson-Lee spoke. I've never been so embarrased as when she got up to speak, and was booed.
I think the "caucus" system (I don't know why they're called caucuses, they used to be conventions) works just fine, and should be kept.
The only people who didn't think it was working was people who had no idea what was going on.
My biggest problem with yesterday's proceedings, as well as the night of the Precinct "Caucuses", was the first time attendees not knowing what was going on, but still raising hell.
When the nominations committee read its report the Obama camp began yelling and screaming with no regard to order that the nominations were done improperly. This was totally ludacris. They were done totally to the letter and spirit of the TDP rules, yet these people didn't know the rules, but refused to admit that.

Posted by: Travis on March 30, 2008 6:07 PM

Compared to some District 13 convention disasters I recall attending in the 1980s, the convention yesterday was relatively smooth. The Credentials Chair, however, did a miserable job of presenting his report and failed completely at communicating what the bases for the challenges were. The Obama woman with the mike permanently attached could be heard and readily understood, but I wish she had had a better handle on Robert's Rules (little things, like the person who makes the motion does not call for the vote). I wasn't surprised that Sheila Jackson Lee was booed. She handled it very well, but it was apparent that a majority of the attendees regarded her as failing in her loyalty to the community. (It is too bad she had to be principled in her loyalty to a candidate who certainly has failed to maintain a principled campaign -- principled beyond her entitlement, that is.) Never forget that this congressional district has defeated a sitting congressman (Washington) for being out of step with the district.

Posted by: Temple Houston on March 30, 2008 7:36 PM

Well, to be fair:

1. The booing didn't last long, and was replaced with Obama, Obama, Obama chants. Considering the fact that her district is *heavily* behind Obama, I reckon that she should rightly feel the indignation her constituency has at the idea of ignoring that fact and casting her vote as a super delegate with Clinton.

I could have done without the brief booing myself too, but one could concentrate on it I suppose. But barring the boos, I thought it was just and right that the people have their voice heard. Writing letters sometimes doesn't get the job done.

2. There was very little in the way of briefings as to what exactly a "majority report" and "minority report" really means. Had that happened (and really I think this will need to happen at the precinct level far prior to the convention), I think there would have been far more voting for the majority report and less pushing through on the floor of the measures which favor the majority.

3. Cheating by the Obama folks? I don't know, I saw challenges on both sides, but the whole "try to get Obama delegates to switch to Clinton delegates with the promise of going to the State convention" rather takes the cake, in my view.

Couple this with the fact that the county documents and the state documents outlining calculations for rounding differed entirely (documents posted online for use by chairs), there may have been quite a few challenges construed as attempted "cheating" by both sides.

Which isn't the case, as when there are two posted calculation methods and one favors your side while the other was used - you are bound to issue a challenge if you aren't asleep at the wheel. Those things are cut and dry, and only able to be decided fairly by the credentials committee - but normally resulted in unanimous decisions on both sides.

A lot of those sorts of things can be sorted next time around by better education of the delegates at the precinct level, in my view.

No matter who prevails to be the nominee, I reckon we are going to have to work on the grassroots level to ensure we don't lose folks to McCain over all this.

It also really highlights why this thing can't go to a national brokered convention without causing a heck of a split in the party - no matter how well the convention is run.

Posted by: Michael on March 30, 2008 10:06 PM

A report from Bexar SD19:

Short version: Chaos.

Longer version:
It started off bad... They moved the location less than a week before the convention. Two days before they were still handing out paperwork showing the wrong location. Our Obama precinct captain was well-organized though, and made sure we knew where to go.

Showed up at 8:15 for the 8:30 sign in. Waited in line for almost an hour - this would be the best part of the day.

Shortly after I sign in, I'm told that they're issuing credentials at the other end of the complex. I head down that way, to find the credentials committee still arguing over things. Half an hour later they get it sorted out, and everyone who waited through the line to sign in has to wait through ANOTHER line to get credentials. They had nothing set up - some tables were rearranged, and they formed 3 lines for about 1,400 people. The rolls they had were organized by precinct, not alphabetically, which slowed it down immensely.

On the good side, that made it easier to realize that ENTIRE PRECINCTS were left off the rolls. They would still be trying to resolve that come about 3pm.

The building we were in was a warehouse near downtown San Antonio - simple corrugated metal, no AC, and probably only about 2/3 of the seats necessary for just the primary delegates. As an alternate, I sat outside all day. We'd been told we'd sign in and then leave, but shortly after arriving they told everyone not to leave at all. Rumors were that they would be challenging the status of anyone not there in an attempt to take seats away.

Since I was an alternate I volunteered to get lunch for everyone, and returned with pizza. At that point the very irate (and very nasty) owner of the warehouse told me no outside food was allowed in - apparently that was his cut, to sell us overpriced breakfast tacos. Nobody had told anyone that, though, so we ended up with a great many people who had no cash to buy the provided concessions, and many people were left with no food or drink for the day. So, I took my pizza to the sidewalk and we started bringing our delegates out one at a time. The owner tried to get us kicked off the sidewalk - fortunately, the constable there laughed at him. Later I gave away the leftovers, and some people took it in. The owner again got irate, and it turned into an argument, with the owner deciding the convention was over and everyone had to leave immediately. I think someone talked him down, but the guy was a serious ass.

Then the fire marshal showed up and closed the place down, because we had far too many people in the building. Wheee!!

Eventually someone came to some sort of a compromise, and most of the precincts moved outside to, they said, re-caucus... I'm not sure what it meant, because we ended up voting for our delegate to the state convention.

This was the point when I got really mad... Our precinct split 11-10 for Obama. We'd been asking about alternates all day, and were always told it was going to be later. Somehow, the Clinton people got 3 of their delegates promoted from alternate, and attempted to force our election without allowing the Obama supporters to do the same. Fortunately, all 11 of our primary delegates were present, and eventually the vote fell out exactly as it should. At 5:30 I was no longer needed as an alternate, and I left with nothing to show but a sunburn and a healthy load of disgust for the process.

The entire thing was disgraceful. The organization was miserable, the building completely inadequate, the planning was so bad that the delegates (I missed this, being outside) had to say the Pledge of Allegiance to a woman wearing an American flag HAT. IMHO, the entire party was so busy trying to stack their deck for their preferred candidate that nobody thought to actually organize the damn things.

I'm not sorry I went, but I doubt I'll do it again. The entire process was one big attempt to change the outcome of the votes we cast March 4th. I think both sides tended to do it, although I saw more of it from the Clinton side, and this was in a district she won heavily.

I came away greatly disappointed in our party as a whole. These sorts of tactics are the things I expect from Republicans not us. If the party elites are threatened by the rising interest of younger, first-time participants in the process I think they put a pretty good damper on it yesterday :(

Posted by: Buhallin on March 30, 2008 11:34 PM

Bobby Warren-- second poster- is dead wrong about the SD 13 credentials committee. Clearly he did not attend any sessions and has extremely biased information. First, the credentials committee takes an oath to rule fairly and impartially. There is no "flipping" allegiances. There is ruling on the merit of each challenge. There were many meritorious challenges presented and approved and disapproved by the committee. The behavior of certain individuals of the credentials committee was appalling. The secretary of the committee would roll her eyes, sigh loudly, and call challengers illegal, immoral and unethical during their challenge presentations. The Chairman let this behavior go on. She continued this ridiculous behavior during the convention while directing the crowd in voting to overturn the committee recommendations and doing "happy dances" when the mob-- and I mean to use the word mob did her bidding. The Obama members of the committee engaged in strenuous disputes of every challenge-- even something as simple as a person signing the sign-in sheet twice with the same name. Unless cloning is possible, I don't see how this challenge is anything but legit. As a result of the secretary's behavior, the challenges took 3-4 times as long as they should. I believe the entire SD 13 delegation should NOT be seated based on her actions alone. The overwhelmed Chairman was clearly in over his head. He made various attempts as impartiality but was steamrollered by his own committee.

I was approached by several Obama supporters-- both white and black who were equally appalled at the behavior of their own delegates and they vowed that they were not going to vote for Obama in the general election due to what they had witnessed.

I am fearful of what lies ahead based on what I witnessed. I also feel that HCDP and TDP bear a great deal of responsibility for the contentiousness. They were supposed to examine provisional signers and make a determination. They didn't do their job and left it to the anarchy of the convention. I, for one, will not be giving any money to either body and will encourage others to boycott the state and county party.

Posted by: Almost Former Dem on March 31, 2008 10:13 AM

My report from SD13.

All in all, it was chaotic, long, and disorganized. With the exception of making people sign in as they arrived at the door, I can't really envision it being any other way, what with so many first time conventioneers there. (Including me.) A lot of people in my precinct kept asking me about what was going on, under the mistaken impression that since I was a laywer, I know convention rules. Still, I'm rather impressed that everyone stayed for as long as they did. I spent some time handing out Rick Noriega materials and bumper stickers in the hopes of getting everyone united behind one Democrat and remembering that we all need each other this fall.

Posted by: 'stina on March 31, 2008 12:14 PM
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