DETROIT – Sen. Hillary Clinton made an unexpected campaign stop here yesterday for one reason: “to make sure Michigan’s votes are counted.”
After Michigan and Florida were stripped of their national convention delegates for moving their primaries before Feb. 5, a violation of Democratic National Committee rules, several prominent Democrats – including DNC Chairman Howard Dean – have called for both states to hold new nominating contests.
In front of 250 union members and Clinton supporters at the downtown office of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, one of the nation’s largest labor unions, the New York senator said depriving Michigan of a convention delegation was “wrong, and frankly, un-American.”
During the event, several union members erupted into chants of “It’s our right! It’s our right!” Signs demanding that the campaigns “Bring the Showdown to Motown” and “Count MI Vote” were scattered throughout the crowd.
While the Clinton campaign has supported holding a new contest in the state, Sen. Barack Obama’s campaign has hesitated because of legal and logistical concerns.
As the race for the Democratic nomination tightened and Obama overtook Clinton’s delegate lead, Michigan Democrats stepped up demands for the state’s delegates to be seated in some way.
On the table is a proposal by four Democrats to hold a new, privately-funded contest on June 3. In addition to approval from both campaigns, the proposal will need the support of the Michigan Democratic Party, the DNC, Gov. Jennifer Granholm and the state legislature.
The legislation must be passed today, before the Michigan Legislature begins a two-week recess tomorrow.
Because Democrats in the state legislature are currently split on the idea of a primary do-over, it is unlikely a consensus will be reached today.
In her address yesterday, Clinton challenged Obama to agree to the proposed primary do-over.
“Senator Obama speaks passionately on the campaign trail about empowering the American people,” she said. “Today I am asking him to match those words with actions.”
Clinton drew cheers from the frustrated crowd of Michigan voters when she said, “I am proud to stand with the people of Michigan in this cause and I hope that Senator Obama will join me.”
While some have expressed concerns regarding the legality and funding of a new primary, Mark Brewer, MDP chairman, said the proposal would work.
“In response to questions raised today concerning the proposed presidential primary legislation, I support this legislation as creating a legally viable process for an early June presidential primary,” Brewer said in a statement. “None of the legal objections to the legislation have any merit, and in my opinion, this legislation satisfies all DNC and legal requirements.”
During her address, Clinton called Michigan a “critical state for Democrats to win” in the November general election.
“If Democrats send a message that we don’t care about your votes, I’m sure John McCain and the Republicans would be happy to have them,” Clinton said. “Ignoring Michigan and Florida will be a grave mistake.”
Granholm’s daughter, LSA freshman Kate Mulhern, a member of University’s Students for Hillary chapter, echoed Clinton’s sentiments.
“You can’t just disenfranchise an entire state,” Mulhern said.
Mulhern said a new primary would be the best way to force the candidates to address the concerns of Michigan voters.
“It’ll bring huge national attention to Michigan, which is multiplied by how close the race is, how neck-and-neck it is,” Mulhern said.
A primary do-over would cost between $8 million and $12 million and would need to be funded privately. While Granholm and state legislators have said taxpayers will not pay for another election, several donors – mostly Clinton backers – have volunteered to fund it.
Officials have ruled out the possibility of validating the Jan. 15 primary and seating the state’s 128 delegates as they were determined in the first primary. Many, and in particular Obama supporters, claim the first election does not accurately reflect the will of Michigan voters because Obama removed his name from the Jan. 15 ballot. Clinton won 55 percent of the vote in Michigan on Jan. 15, while 40 percent of Michigan voters cast ballots as “uncommitted.”
Even though the other leading candidates withdrew from the ballot, Clinton said she remained on the ballot because “believed in the voices of Michigan.”
LSA sophomore Kelly Bernero, chair of the University’s chapter of Students for Hillary, said Clinton’s decision to remain on the ballot sent an important message to Michigan, which is suffering from the highest unemployment rates in the country.
“Michigan needs serious economic reform,” she said. “Hillary’s listening to that and saying, ‘I’m ready to partner with you.’ “
HOLDING THE KEYS TO THE CONVENTION
A state-wide Democratic primary do-over could take place June 3, funded by the Democratic Party and private donors and open to voters who did not cast ballots in the Jan. 15 Republican primary and
If the legislation for a new primary fails, Michigan Democrats could hold a statewide caucus, a mail-in election, or split the delegates evenly between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.
WHO NEEDS TO APPROVE:
– Sen. Hillary Clinton’s Campaign: The campaign supports a new primary. “A re-vote is the only way Michigan can be assured its delegation will be seated, and vote in Denver at the party’s national convention this summer,” Clinton advisor Harold Ickes said in a statement.
– Obama’s Campaign: Sen. Obama said he wants to “make sure we have the Michigan and Florida delegates at the convention in some fashion.” Obama’s campaign is concerned a new election would cause legal and logistical problems.
– Michigan Democratic Party: State party Chairman Mark Brewer supports the proposed June 3 primary. “None of the legal objections to the legislation have any merit, and in my opinion, this legislation satisfies all DNC and legal requirements,” Brewer said.
– Democratic National Committee: DNC Chairman Howard Dean has asked Michigan Democrats to hold a new contest to allocate the state’s convention delegates. “We’d like to find a way to seat Florida and Michigan,” Dean told CNN. “We’d like to do it in a way that’s fair, that both sides believe is fair. Fair to the voters but also fair to the campaigns.”