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A Postcard re Texas Convention / Eva Ramos

Democrats’ message is clear: Time to unite

But some delegates have reservations.


AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF
Sunday, June 08, 2008The message from leaders at the front of the convention hall (including a Web-streamed U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton) was consistent: Unite behind Sen. Barack Obama for president.

Off stage, though, delegates to the Texas Democratic Party state convention, which continued Saturday in Austin, revealed mixed feelings about how the race might shake out in Texas, which was last won by a Democratic presidential nominee, Jimmy Carter, in 1976.

Rodolfo Gonzalez/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

District #14 Delegates, Lois Rodriguez, Hillary Clinton supporter, left, is hugged and comforted by Eva Ramos, Barack Obama supporter, right, after Sen. Hillary Clinton formally announced her support for Sen. Barack Obama for the democratic presidential nomination during the Texas Democratic Convention in Austin, Texas, on Saturday, June 7, 2008. Rodriguez choked back her tears and emotions as Ramos choked back her smiles and joys as the announcement began to sit in with the delegates.

Rodolfo Gonzalez/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Gerald Flores, a San Antonio delegate, cheers for Hillary Clinton during her formal announcement, via Web feed from Washington on Saturday, that she is throwing her support behind Barack Obama. Boyd Richie, the state party chairman, said he thinks her speech will influence her supporters.

“There’s too much hurt feelings” among true-blue activists, said Obama delegate Nancy Mitchell, a retired Army sergeant from Killeen whose son, Victor, is an Army staff sergeant who has done a tour in Iraq.

Mitchell, who is black and who, like many delegates, was attending her first state convention, said she fears some Democrats won’t be honest about why they won’t vote for Obama against Sen. John McCain, the presumptive GOP nominee.

“People will always find something to say why they won’t vote for him,” she said. “They just hate to say they won’t vote for a black man.”

Her husband, Willie Mitchell, conceded that tensions persist between some partisans for Obama and Clinton. But, he said, activists will rally around Obama.

“It’s not about Barack right now,” he said. “It’s about our country and our people.”

Clinton won the popular vote in the March 4 Texas primary. But Obama will take more delegates to August’s Democratic National Convention in Denver thanks to turnout at primary night caucuses in his favor.

Obama delegates accounted for 57 percent of 7,239 delegates who signed in at the state convention, with Clinton delegates at 43 percent.

Upshot: Obama sewed up 99 national delegates at the polls and the caucuses, Clinton 94. Thirty-five Texas superdelegates, party dignitaries and U.S. House members largely split between them, though some haven’t declared allegiances (and three superdelegate positions were filled at the convention).

Willie Mitchell said: “We’re not hurting. We’re happy.”

Thousands of delegates from both camps at the Austin Convention Center stood and roared at a Web feed of Clinton’s speech in Washington and her call for supporters to work for Obama’s election.

They later joined hands after Dallas state Sen. Royce West’s request that Clinton and Obama delegates reach across to each other.

“We report today to America that the Texas Democratic Party is united,” West said. “We are ready to elect Barack Obama. … Yes, we can.”

Not so sure, Clinton delegate Patricia Valdez of San Antonio said.

“To be quite honest with you — I don’t know if you want to put this in your paper — I think there are some racial tensions that are keeping (the Democratic Party) from coming together,” she said.

Valdez said she probably will support Obama in the end, though she said the avalanche of support that Obama has gotten from black voters has made some Hispanic voters nervous.

“Unfortunately, society is still” racist, Valdez said. “It’s sad but true — but I think we need to address it rather than put it in a closet and be like, ‘No, let’s not talk about it.’ You have to bring it out in order for us to understand it and confront it and stand up to it.”

Clinton delegate William Williams of Orange, in Southeast Texas, said he might vote for McCain. He said he needs Obama to win him over, perhaps by revisiting the provocative remarks of his former pastor and the comment by his wife, Michelle, one day saying she was proud of her country for the first time in her adult life thanks to Obama’s surge.

“I’m still getting over the fact that Hillary is not going to be it,” Williams said.

Two Austin delegates, lawyer and Obama delegate Eva Ramos and travel writer and Clinton delegate Lois Rodriguez, hugged after Clinton’s concession.

The two agreed it’ll take time for doubters to come around.

“There’s still that healing,” Rodriguez said. “I still need to be sold a little bit.”

Ramos called Obama antsiness among some delegates “legitimate residual feelings. I do believe the die-hards (for both Democrats) will come back to the center line — and not vote for McCain.”

Graham lawyer Boyd Richie, elected to a second two-year term as the state party chairman, said Clinton’s concession will influence supporters.

“Hillary Clinton isn’t going to vote for John McCain. And Hillary Clinton is not going to stay home and sit on her hands” in the fall campaign season, Richie said.

wgselby@statesman.com, 445-3644

Additional material from staff writer David Shieh.

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Eva Ramos

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