Superdelegates aren’t sacrosanct to the Democrats’ presidential nominating process, as evidenced by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s willingness to rail against their role yesterday at the Community College of Rhode Island (and Sunday on CNN). But that doesn’t mean every House Democrat will follow her lead and speak out against the process that gives state party leaders an uncommitted vote in who runs for president as a Democrat.
When I asked congressmen Jim Langevin and David Cicilline if they agreed with Pelosi, neither took the opportunity to denounce the anti-democratic Democratic superdelegate process. In an email to their spokespeople, I asked: “Does Congressman [Langevin/Cicilline] agree with Leader Pelosi that the number of superdelegates should be reduced?”
Cicilline said, in an email from his staff: “There’s no question the DNC fell short in 2016. DNC Chair Tom Perez and Vice Chair Keith Ellison are undertaking a thorough review to ensure the 2020 presidential primary is fair and transparent, and I support their work. But, to be honest, my focus is on taking back the House in 2018. Rhode Islanders want to know what we’re going to do to create full-time, good-paying jobs; raise wages; reduce costs; preserve health care; and stand up for working people. Those are the issues I’m focused on.”
Langevin spokeswoman Anita Baffoni said: “As Leader Pelosi said, the Democratic Party is reviewing the nomination process, including the role that Superdelegates play. He believes that the process should be reviewed, and he looks forward to reading the findings of Chairman Perez once that review is complete.”
Interestingly, the Senate caucus was more willing to speak out against superdelegates.
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, through his spokeswoman Meaghan McCabe, said he “would be fine with moving away from the superdelegate system if the DNC decided to change the rules.”
Senator Jack Reed, who couldn’t be at yesterday’s event, said, “The Speaker is right, it should be examined.” To reporters last week, Reed said, “in Rhode Island, the election was overwhelmingly in favor of Bernie Sanders, so in terms of the popular vote that was something that was pretty clear. I think where we are going to have to look at is, structurally, is: how do we accommodate superdelegates, how do we integrate that with the popular vote? That’s a serious question that we have to work on.”
The Rhode Island Democratic Party sent 33 delegates to the nominating convention in July of 2016, nine of them were unpledged superdelegates – or 27 percent, according to a document that spells out the Rhode Island Democratic Party’s delegate selection process. All nine Rhode Island superdelegates voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016, while in the primary election Bernie Sanders took 54.7 percent of the vote to Clinton’s 43.1 percent.
As of today, Rhode Island’s nine superdelgates to the 2020 nominating convention would be: Senators Reed and Whitehouse, Congressmen Jim Langevin and David Cicilline, Governor Gina Raimondo, and Democratic Party officers Joe McNamara, Grace Diaz, Edna O’Neill Mattson, and Joe Paolino.
This post was updated to include comments from Sen. Reed.