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Published: Sunday, 4/20/2008

Michigan Dems choose delegates for convention


LANSING - Michigan Democrats met yesterday to choose their first round of national convention delegates, even though the state has been stripped of its delegates by the Democratic National Committee.

Party members were selecting 83 delegates and 15 alternates at 15 district conventions around the state. Delegates were allocated according to the results of the Jan. 15 primary, which New York Sen. Hillary Clinton won.

An official list of delegates and alternates was to be released early in the week by the Michigan Democratic Party.

"It appears that there's been good turnout at all the conventions around the state," Michigan Democratic Party Chairman Mark Brewer said yesterday. "Nobody has called with anything out of the ordinary."

In Lansing, where the 8th District meeting took place at a United Auto Workers hall, the contest to elect the Clinton delegates took less than an hour. But 40 percent of Michigan voters in the Democratic primary backed Uncommitted after Sen. Barack Obama, former Sen. John Edwards, and two others removed their names from the ballot.

Competition around the state for those 36 delegate seats and two alternate uncommitted seats was much more intense, especially since about 450 people registered to run. All the 36 seats were expected to go to Obama backers.

Caucuses to fill the uncommitted slots ran longer than the Clinton caucuses, largely because the Clinton campaign already had whittled the list of 450 people who had applied to run for 47 delegate and 13 alternate spots to about 150.

Some potential Clinton delegates withdrew their names yesterday during the caucuses, leaving the spots largely to party leaders. Remaining Democratic delegates and alternates are expected to be chosen in May.

Michigan Democrats are selecting delegates even though they and Florida Democrats were stripped of their delegates by the DNC after the states broke party rules by holding presidential primaries in January.

Michigan plans to fill all of its 128 pledged delegate spots despite the DNC action. It also has 28 superdelegates. Most of the superdelegates are not pledged to a particular candidate; some have announced their favorites.

Both states are working with national and state party leaders and the Clinton and Obama campaigns to get their delegates seated at the Democratic National Convention in Denver Aug. 25-28. So far, no agreement has been reached.

Mr. Brewer remains optimistic that the delegates will be seated.

He said any agreements reached with the Clinton and Obama campaigns on how the delegates are to be divided should not affect the delegates chosen yesterday, because the 73-55 ratio between the two candidates can easily be adjusted when the rest of the delegates are selected at a Democratic State Central Committee meeting in May.

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