The procession toward the selection of a Democratic presidential candidate continued Sunday, as California Democrats selected delegates from each congressional district to send to the National Convention in Denver.
On Sunday, caucuses – voting procedures that determine which delegates will be sent to support each candidate at a national convention – were held for each Democratic candidate here in the south county. The crowd for Illinois Sen. Barack Obama was over 400 deep, while New York Sen. Hillary Clinton’s caucus drew a little under 100 registered voters.
Held in the Dos Pueblos High School gym in Goleta, Obama voters had the choice of watching the 24 potential delegates give speeches before casting ballots, or of leaving right away. Over 200 people stayed to watch the candidates, and the event included two musical performances that the entire audience participated in.
Meanwhile, at the Clinton caucus, 23 potential delegates contended for the position at a large common room in a Santa Barbara apartment complex. Voters were also given the choice of staying for delegate speeches, but most chose not to. Of the 99 registered voters, only a few stayed to watch the speeches.
Robert Egenolf, one of the selected delegates going to the convention in support of Clinton, said that he felt the process of electing delegates was odd, and that only one woman had not cast her ballot prior to the speeches at the Clinton caucus.
“I’ve never been to a caucus before, and it’s a strange way to handle democracy,” Egenolf said. “Caucuses are a bit archaic in today’s world. After everyone cast their ballots, we ended up giving our speeches, and we knew that it was almost meaningless.”
According to Frank Christopher, a caucus convener for the Obama campaign in the 23rd district, this caucus’ importance lies in the fact that pledged delegates have the ability to change their affiliations – that is, support the opposite candidate – when they get to the National Convention. As delegates are bound only by good faith to choose one candidate, Christopher said it is very important to pick the right delegates.
“What is critical is that the delegates we select here, no matter what happens, will continue to vote for Obama,” Christopher said. “We want to send someone that will vote Obama on the first ballot or the 100th ballot. We are always wondering if someone expresses one belief, and gets to the convention and has another.”
Former 2nd District Supervisor Susan Rose, a current Clinton delegate, said the caucus system is a microcosm of the democratic values in the U.S., and makes the community a part of the political process.
“I think symbolically, it’s grassroots political activity at the very local level, so this is how we are a democracy, and I think caucuses are just one example of just how democracy plays out in the United States,” Rose said. “I see caucuses as a kind of democracy in action, starting at the lowest level working all the way up to president of the United States.”
The Feb. 5 state primaries determined that three delegates and one alternate would be selected to go to the convention in support of Obama, while two delegates would be selected for Clinton in the 23rd congressional district. The selections for Clinton were Rose and Egenolf, while the delegates representing Obama will be Sherry Holland, Michael Getto and Tim Allison, with Maricela Morales as the alternate.