A Democratic superdelegate from the U.S. Virgin Islands has announced he’s shifting his support from Bernie Sanders to Hillary Clinton.
Former Senator Emmett Hansen II said he decided to drop Sanders after a weekend briefing on Hillary Clinton’s policy agenda for U.S. territories, arguing that Clinton’s plans for the Virgin Islands were more ambitious.
Hansen is the first publicly committed Sanders superdelegate to shift his support to Clinton.
Although the two-time senator and former head of the Democratic Party of the Virgin Islands had been regularly communicating with the Sanders campaign, Hansen said that he had grown frustrated with the long-time independent’s flimsy territorial agenda.
Hansen told Bloomberg on Tuesday that he had repeatedly pressed Sanders’ aides to take detailed positions on issues that mattered to Democratic voters in the Virgin Islands to no avail.
“I know a million different ways not to answer a question,” Hansen said
But on Saturday, the St. Croix-native met with Karen Green, a volunteer outreach lead who works with the Clinton campaign across the Caribbean community. After being shown the Democratic front-runner’s territorial policies in black-and-white, Hansen said he agreed that Clinton’s agenda provided clear goals for the chain of islands he represents.
“There are no more windmills to joust against and no more mountains to climb,” Hansen said. “It comes down to one thing: what’s best for the Virgin Islands, to be fully incorporated into the United States.”
As part of her overlying strategy to overhaul the rights of territorial residents, Clinton has pledged to extend the Affordable Care Act across all American territories and ensure that residents are provided the same Medicare and Medicaid benefits that are currently available on the mainland. She’s also vowed to give islands like the Virgin Islands a real vote in presidential elections.
The Virgin Islands will host the Democratic Party’s next presidential contest on June 4. The group of islands lays claim to 12 convention delegates, seven of which are awarded based on votes. The other four delegates, including Hansen, are allowed to make up their own minds at the Democratic National Convention in July.
Pollsters have yet to conduct a major survey forecasting how June’s caucus is expected to play out, but former President Bill Clinton did enjoy a huge reception at the campaign stop he made in St. Croix on Monday.
That being said, the Virgin Islands aren’t the Caribbean’s only contested battleground.
Bernie Sanders hit San Juan on Monday in an attempt to win over Puerto Rico Democrats, who will stage their own primary on June 5.
Both candidates have made an attempt to address concerns over Puerto Rico’s financial worries. At present, the island is drowning in some $70 billion worth of bad debt. Congress is currently toying with the idea of allowing the U.S. territory new powers so that it can restructure that debt.
Sanders told supporters on Monday that he supported a full government bailout for Puerto Rico.
“If the Federal Reserve could bail out Wall Street, it can help the 3.5 million American citizens of Puerto Rico,” he said.
At present, Clinton maintains an insurmountable delegate lead over Bernie Sanders. According to analysts at RealClearPolitics, she now needs just 89 more delegates in order to reach the threshold of 2,382 needed to secure the Democratic nomination.
Yet with Sanders having vowed to fight Clinton up until the party’s Philadelphia convention, the Vermont senator’s campaign strategy is now placing emphasis on attempting to attract superdelegates away from Clinton in order bolster his numbers.
Clinton has already received backing from 525 of the party’s 712 superdelegates, while Sanders had laid claim to 40 until Emmett Hansen’s defection. Around 150 superdelegates have not yet offered their public support to either candidate.
[Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images]