Not surprised, but disappointed. That was the reaction Monday from Bernie Sanders delegates from North Carolina about the thousands of leaked emails that revealed a bias for Hillary Clinton by Democratic National Committee officials.
The delegates said they were happy that DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz will step down over the controversy, but said that probably would not be enough to avoid further fracturing of the party.
And if Wasserman Schultz shows up to speak or wield the gavel at the Democratic National Convention, which starts Monday here at the Wells Fargo Center?
“It’ll get the Guinness Book of World Record for boos,” said Jeff Marshall of Winston-Salem, a Sanders delegate along with his wife, Jennifer. “What’s now come out is what we Benie Sanders supporters have known all along.”
Marshall said he remains undecided on whether to vote for Clinton in November. “I can always write in Bernie Sanders,” he said. “I’ll be watching to see if she helps bring moderates and liberals together. Then she’d be earning my vote.”
Other N.C. Sanders delegates said they would vote for the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee – some preferred saying that to mentioning Clinton by name – but predicted the news about the emails would make it harder for the former secretary of state to end the convention Thursday with a unified party behind her.
“The confirmation that there was monkey business going on is absolutely going to be a fractious phenomenon,” said Jake Quinn, a member of the Democratic National Committee from Asheville who endorsed Sanders during the primary campaign. “People are not happy to hear about that.”
Quinn called for the ouster of other top members of the DNC implicated in the email controversy. “They need to go as well. And for a simple reason: I need people to have faith in our party,” Quinn said. “And when the leadership violates our rules, that leadership has to be changed. It’s not just one (person). So let’s do it. Let’s reform the party and move on.”
Quinn contrasted the pro-Clinton tilt of the DNC officials with the even-handed approach of N.C. Democratic Party Chair Patsy Keever, who supports Clinton but has been viewed as fair. At the N.C. delegation’s Monday morning breakfast, Keever asked for applause for the Sanders delegates, who represent a minority since Clinton won the N.C. Democratic primary.
Charlotte minister Ray McKinnon, a Sanders delegate and former head of the Young Democrats of Mecklenburg County, singled out national party officials’ emails suggesting a scheme to use Sanders’ Jewish religion to undermine his chances in the Kentucky and West Virginia primaries.
“The things ... said about Sen. Sanders were deplorable,” McKinnon said. “It does not speak to what this party is supposed to be. We don’t have religious tests on people.”
Still, McKinnon said the behavior by DNC officials working for Wasserman Schultz, who is herself Jewish, were not enough to dissuade him from voting for Clinton in November. “It doesn’t change the fact,” he said, “that Hillary Clinton will be a far better nominee than ... Donald Trump.”
Aisha Dew, who chaired the Sanders campaign in Mecklenburg County, struck a positive note, saying she was more excited about the African-American women – DNC Vice Chair Donna Brazile and U.S. Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio – who had been named to take over leadership roles from Wasserman Schultz during the convention and the coming general election campaign. Brazile will be interim chair of the party through the November vote and Fudge has been named permanent chair of this week’s convention. Wasserman Schultz is expected to exit her post by the end of the week, leaving unclear what part – if any –the Florida congresswoman will play at the convention.
“I’m less concerned about the controversy,” Dew said, “and more interested in moving forward.”
Lula Dualeh, also a Sanders delegate from Charlotte, said she is “very excited to see African-American leadership (by Brazile and Fudge). I’m not angry or worried.”
Dew and Dualeh were among the N.C. Sanders delegates planning to attend a 12:30 p.m. Monday gathering the Vermont senator has invited his 1,900 delegates to attend in Philadelphia.
Mecklenburg County Commissioner Pat Cotham, a DNC member who endorsed Sanders late in the primary campaign, said Clinton complicated matters and hurt her own push for unity by announcing over the weekend that Wasserman Schultz will serve as honorary chair of her campaign’s 50-state program to help elect Democrats around the country.
“If (Clinton) wanted to hire her, she could have waited weeks,” Cotham said. “It’s kind of raw now. That didn’t pass the smell test.”
Cotham, a political veteran, said her worry now is that a public role for Wasserman Schultz at the convention will spark protests and boos by many Sanders delegates – all on national TV.
“It’s not about us anymore. It’s how we look to the country,” she said. “After what happened (at the Republican convention) in Ohio, it would be better if everybody is on his or her good behavior.”
But, Cotham added, some Sanders delegates are new to politics and may feel the need to show their anger at the DNC bias, at Wasserman Schultz and at Clinton.
U.S. Rep. David Price, D-N.C., a longtime Clinton supporter who spoke at the N.C. delegation’s Monday morning breakfast meeting, said the emails did show some bias and “poor judgment” on the part of some national party officials. But, he added, “I don’t think they add up to some kind of dire conspiracy in the way some people are suggesting.”
Price, a member of the House Committee on Homeland Security, said he is more concerned about reports that Russia may have had a role in hacking the emails. He said it’s still uncertain whether any foreign government officials were involved.
“It’s truly an alarming development if any kind of state actors are involved in hacking our systems,” Price said, “and to interject this in a way that appears to have an influence in this election.”
On Monday, the FBI confirmed it is investigating the hacking of the emails, which turned up on the Wikileaks website.