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July 30, 2014

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Quick fix and Dems’ debacle may be history

Insiders say convention won’t scar — barring future bungles

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Sam Morris

A worker at the Clark County Democratic Convention at Bally’s on Saturday tells alternate delegates they’ve been sent to the wrong room for the second time. The convention was suspended because of problems with the event’s organization, venue size and balloting.

Convention Confusion

Too many people, too little space and too much missing paperwork made the Clark County Democratic Convention at Bally's a miserable experience for nearly 10,000 people. At the end of the day voting was suspended to a later date.

The consensus among Democrats is that the damage done by Saturday’s infamous Clark County Democratic Convention can be repaired before it has lasting impact, such as costing Nevada its early position on the presidential nominating calendar.

But no more screw-ups. At the behest of the presidential campaigns of Illinois Sen. Barack Obama and New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, assembled Democrats suspended the convention because ballot boxes weren’t secure, the room was far too small for the crowd of 10,000 and confusion reigned over the eligibility of delegates.

“If left unfixed, it could have some serious repercussions,” said Dan Hart, a Democratic consultant. “But it’s in everyone’s interest to get it right. We’ve got to stop pointing fingers and find some solutions.”

With that in mind, campaign representatives met Tuesday with John Hunt, chairman of the Clark County Democratic Party, to figure out a way to clean up the mess when the convention resumes on a date yet to be determined.

A Democratic operative with knowledge of the discussions said one likely solution was to form a committee of representatives from the two campaigns and a state party luminary to oversee the convention.

But Hunt said no such proposal had been made at the meeting with the campaign representatives.

“There’s nothing negative,” he said. “It’s all positive.”

To the thousands of Democrats who wasted their Saturday standing in line, in some cases only to be told they’d been demoted to alternates when they were in fact elected delegates, Hunt’s words must sound like maddening self-delusion.

(Quick summary of Saturday: The county party, led by Chairman Hunt, had booked a room at Bally’s with a capacity of 5,000, even though there were 7,000 elected delegates and at least 10,000 showed up because the campaigns had called supporters and urged them to attend. The county party also didn’t have enough volunteers and lacked a clean process for seating delegates and alternates to replace the no-shows.)

Another Democrat with knowledge of the discussion said “oversee” is not the right word to describe what the committee would do. It would merely provide input and information.

“The county party has to run this convention,” the Democrat said. Hunt has “got to be part of it. He’s not resigning.”

Although almost everyone agrees Hunt failed badly Saturday, some influential Democrats are being gentle with him, wary of his taste for confrontation and spotlight that could turn convention planning into a circus pitting Hunt against the state party and the campaigns.

Although these Democrats concede that the Democratic National Committee has the power to tell Hunt to obey or else the county party will lose seats at the national convention this summer in Denver, they say nothing is to be gained by playing that kind of hardball. Nevertheless, the DNC told state party officials Saturday to get the county party to fix the problems.

For most Democrats, these internecine battles are largely meaningless. What isn’t meaningless, though, is Nevada’s status as an early presidential voting state, which has energized tens of thousands of Democrats, many of whom are new to politics.

A range of experts said Nevada Democrats needn’t worry, at least not yet. For one thing, most leading national Democrats are focused on the presidential campaign and its next battlegrounds in Texas and Ohio, and likely didn’t notice Saturday’s debacle.

Carol Fowler, the chairwoman of the South Carolina Democratic Party, who was on the committee that selected Nevada as an early state, said the next election cycle is too far off even to think about. The rules and bylaws committee will examine every state’s process for selecting delegates to the national convention to ensure they’re open and fair.

“No state has ever conducted a perfect process,” Fowler said. “There are always glitches.”

Still, another bad county convention could start to seep into the minds of the DNC and the national news media, painting Nevada Democrats as dysfunctional, or rather, more dysfunctional than their typically dysfunctional brethren.

Then there are all the enthused Democrats, many of whom were devastated by the way they were treated at the convention.

Hart said they will come back:

“If people are truly enthusiastic about the political process, it’s hard to keep them away from it. Hopefully, time will heal.”

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