DETROIT — Voters at city caucus sites Saturday expressed
concern over the refusal of many Democratic presidential candidates
to campaign in delegate-heavy Michigan.

The Rev. Al Sharpton, while notably absent in Iowa and New
Hampshire, was the only candidate to attend a town hall meeting in
Detroit last Thursday.

“He was the only one who cared about my vote,” said
Detroit resident Benjamin Williams, who cast his vote for Sharpton.
“Everyone else pretty much played us,” he added.

Detroit resident Dorothy Redmond, who also voted for Sharpton,
echoed Williams’ resentment.

“(Candidates need to) pay attention to the urban
agenda,” she said. “Although Sharpton won’t make
it, I want to show blacks do vote and have issues.”

She added that “urban voters were ignored” in this
election and that “more needs to be done to combat voter
apathy.”

Sharpton finished with seven of Michigan’s 128 pledged
delegates, more than doubling his nationwide delegate count.

“He respects us enough to come out here,” said
Detroit resident Sheila Strbling, who indicated her preference for
Sharpton on her ballot Saturday.

Sharpton’s fellow campaigner John Kerry won 71 percent of
Michigan’s delegates when he routed his rivals in
Saturday’s caucuses. The Massachusetts senator did not attend
his own victory party in the Dunam Ray VFW Hall in Southfield
Saturday evening. Instead, Kerry sent his brother Cameron, who
dubbed the victory “Michigan accomplished.”

The victory rally represented a who’s who of Michigan
politics, with appearances by Gov. Jennifer Granholm, U.S. Sens.
Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow, former Gov. Jim Blanchard and U.S.
Rep. John Dingell.

“The senator’s busy,” Dingell said, responding
to questions about Kerry’s absence. “I don’t want
him sitting around wasting time where he’s already
won.”

Michigan’s new caucus date, held one month earlier than in
previous years, was less successful than hoped in its intent to
spotlight the state’s concerns because of Kerry’s
overwhelming lead in the days before the caucuses.

“It had a positive effect,” Levin said of the
earlier date. “But we need to end the privileged position of
Iowa and New Hampshire. It is a bizarre way to nominate a
president.”

Levin proposed a rotating primary system to replace the current
system in which Iowa and New Hampshire — which together
contribute fewer delegates than Michigan — are of
disproportionate significance in the nominating process.

“It is very important that the democratic process includes
a major industrial state,” Dingell said.

Levin said Kerry’s first victory in an industrial state
gives the senator momentum as he moves on to decisive battles in
the South, where Tennessee and Virginia hold their primaries
tomorrow. Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina and retired Gen.
Wesley Clark skipped over Michigan to compete in these states.
Kerry’s rivals were forced to pick their battles when
Kerry’s victory in five of seven contests last Tuesday
demonstrated his broad appeal.

Kerry’s Michigan backers spoke of him as the probable
victor in the presidential race. “The people have spoken
… John Kerry will be the next president,” Granholm
said.

Her speech was followed by remarks from Levin and Stabenow, who
appeared confident Kerry would able to beat President Bush.
Bush’s approval rating recently fell below 50 percent for the
first time since he took office in 2000.

“We tonight say that we will reclaim our democracy and the
man who will lead us to do this is John Kerry,” an exultant
Stabenow said. “The Republicans are worried about John Kerry.
… They know he can reclaim the White House.”

Referring to the presidential elections in November, Levin said,
“It takes a fighter to win in November. John Kerry is a
fighter.”

Kerry’s Michigan supporters responded Saturday to
questions about voting irregularities in Detroit. The Michigan
Democratic Party failed to notify some voters of last-minute
changes in their polling sites, leaving some Detroiters resentful
of a party that they felt largely ignored their issues in this
election.

“You do the best you can to run a good, clean
election,” Dingell said. “Every Democratic candidate
was hurt by that unfortunate event.”

A group of black Detroit-area leaders announced yesterday that
they would challenge the results of Saturday’s caucuses. In
response to voters’ complaints, the MDP held polls open two
hours past the original 4 p.m. deadline in predominantly Democratic
Detroit.

Voting in Saturday’s caucuses was not automated. There
were no private booths in which voters could complete their
ballots. Caucus-goers simply checked their preferences and turned
their ballots into polling site officials. The MDP tallied all
votes manually in Lansing after the polls closed. Despite
assurances that voters would have to declare themselves Democrats
in order to cast their votes, no such declarations were solicited
at polling sites Saturday.

After the two races in the South, the campaigns will shift to
Nevada and the District of Columbia, which hold their caucuses next
Saturday. Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean said he will end his
candidacy if he does not win in the Wisconsin primary next
week.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.