TACOMA – One of the nation’s most prominent super delegates for Bernie Sanders urged Washington Democrats to unite behind Hillary Clinton to continue the fight for progressive values.
Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon got a mixture of boos and cheers Saturday when he told more than 800 delegates to the state Democratic convention they needed to come together to defeat Donald Trump. Some stood and applauded, but others walked around the hall giving the thumbs-down sign.
“We have a nominee. That nominee is not my first choice,” said Merkley, an automatic delegate pledged to Sanders. “If we’re going to win this battle that we so much care about … we have to come together.”
Merkley’s words failed to sway many of the Sanders delegates, who later pushed through a resolution endorsing the Vermont senator for president on a vote of 564 to 246, then beat back a resolution to endorse both candidates on a similar margin.
One opponent to the resolution endorsing both candidates called Clinton “a war criminal” before he was shouted down.
Sanders supporters swamped the Democratic precinct caucuses and outnumbered Clinton delegates at the convention by more than 2-to-1. That made Merkley, the only member of the U.S. Senate pledged to Sanders, a good choice for the opening speaker for the party’s quadrennial gathering.
He got raucous applause when blasting Trump as racist, misogynist and a financial predator.
“The threat is far greater than we have seen in previous elections,” he said.
Supporters of both candidates want to protect the environment, reduce the use of fossil fuels, raise the minimum wage, improve jobs, and stop discrimination against gay, lesbian and transgender people, he said.
“It’s not just about Bernie, and he will tell you that.”
But emotions ran high among supporters for Clinton and Sanders.
Erin Toungate, a college instructor who teaches literature and writing, said the mixture of boos and cheers was an accurate reflection of the concerns some people have. A Sanders supporter, she has been working regularly for the Vermont senator since attending her first caucus in March.
She said she was disappointed that Merkley was switching his support to Clinton and she isn’t ready to follow suit.
“I don’t know if I believe in the lesser of two evils,” Toungate said. “At this point, I would be going Green (Party).”
John Orr, another Spokane Sanders supporter, said superdelegates should refrain from openly supporting a candidate before the national convention. The nomination process needs to be reformed to get rid of voter suppression and manipulation, and he’s not ready to give up on Sanders.
“It ain’t over until it’s over,” said Orr, a Spokane Realtor.
Erin Ross, a Spokane Clinton delegate who operates several small businesses with her husband, said the mixture of cheers and boos was “pretty reflective of what I’m seeing on social media.” The state party has done a good job of trying to bring people together, she said, and Sanders supporters are starting to realize the need to defeat Trump.
Ross said she has “unfriended” some people on Facebook for their criticism of her support for Clinton. She was wearing a shirt that had a slur often directed at women and said she’d been called that epithet more times since the March precinct caucus than she had in her entire life before that time.
“This is what Hillary supporters have to deal with,” said Ross, who hopes to be elected as a national convention delegate. “We feel like we need to own the name.”
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