The Wyoming State Democratic Convention could lead to chaos on Saturday as state officials brace for tension from angry Bernie Sanders supporters — a group that may already be harassing state officials.
Though it is the smallest state by population, Wyoming will play a big part in the process of picking the next Democratic Party nominee when delegates meet at the convention in Cheyenne on Saturday. There is at least one delegate up for grabs, and the Sanders campaign appears determined to scoop up as many available delegates as possible ahead of this summer’s Democratic National Convention.
There is greater attention on the Wyoming State Democratic Convention after the controversy in Nevada earlier this month. There was already high tension coming into the Nevada convention, with Sanders delegates managing to flip an extra delegate in the second round of the three-tiered caucus when they outnumbered Clinton delegates.
Clinton delegates were able to flip it back at the state convention when close to 500 Sanders delegates failed to show. The real controversy came from the actions of the state party, which Sanders supporters accused of ignoring their calls for re-counts and by pushing ahead votes despite vocal opposition.
State committee members and some members of the media later accused Sanders supporters of violence, including alleged chair throwing, but these allegations were vehemently denied by Sanders delegates and from Bernie Sanders himself. There was no corroborating evidence for the claims that chairs were thrown, either.
The actions in Nevada had a nationwide audience, with many Sanders supporters broadcasting livestreaming video of all the chaos.
The Wyoming State Democratic Convention could see the potential for another mess, party insiders fear. Though Sanders won the state by 12 points, delegates ended up being split evenly among Sanders and Hillary Clinton. But the state convention will determine the final tally, so Sanders delegates have a chance to break the 7-7 stalemate and flip an extra delegate in their favor.
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At a meeting of state Democratic committee chairs held in Philadelphia this week, there was widespread worry that this Saturday’s Wyoming state convention could see similar chaos, Politico reported.
“There was obviously a discussion amongst [state Democratic executive directors] and amongst party chairs about the upcoming states with conventions, particularly those that have the delegate selection parts, and the feeling that there would be a couple of flash points coming up,” said a state Democratic party executive director who attended the meeting. “Wyoming is one that was thrown into the mix.”
The Wyoming State Democratic Committee has already spoken out against the potential unrest from Bernie Sanders supporters. Last week, state chair Raymond Buckley issued a statement on Facebook saying that “every state party was stunned and saddened by what occurred and what has been alleged to occur in Nevada.” He specifically called out the behavior of Sanders supporters who caused turmoil at the convention, booing speakers, throwing debris, and later many sending death threats to the Nevada state chair.
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“For a state party convention to succeed it must be organized and function in a manner that allows the elected delegates to gather, conduct party business, hear from speakers and unite for victory in November,” Buckley wrote. “Every delegate must be treated with respect and in turn must act in a respectful manner. Let me be clear – it is not acceptable for a state chair – or anyone participating within the Democratic Party for that matter – to be the victim of death threats or to have their family’s safety or job threatened. It cannot happen.”
Buckley called on both the Clinton and Sanders campaigns to agree to send senior staff members on site at the Wyoming state convention and all future conventions. He also called for both campaigns to meet with the state committee the day before the convention to discuss any concerns that may have arisen.
Some within the Wyoming Democratic Party are already criticizing the Sanders campaign ahead of Saturday’s state convention. Mary Hales, a Casper resident who is a Democratic National Committee member representing the state, said she has received “nasty calls and letters” from out-of-state Sanders supporters, the Associated Press reported.
Hales said she has not received any specific threats, but still felt threatened by the fervent Bernie Sanders supporters. Aimee Van Cleave, executive director of the Wyoming State Democratic Party, said she has also received threats, but cannot say for sure if Sanders supporters are responsible. But there were reports online that Sanders supporters had published personal contact information from some high-ranking Wyoming party officials, which was the catalyst for the threats.
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[Photo by Brennan Linsley/AP Images]