Local parties to choose delegates

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Cape Girardeau County Democrats and Republicans will get another chance to show their support for their party's presidential candidates.

On Thursday, Democrats hold their county mass meeting, the event that will elect local delegates to the party's congressional district and state conventions. The delegates elected to the district and state conventions will choose the people who will be delegates to the Democratic National Convention in August in Denver.

The Democratic Party meeting will be at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the IBEW Union Hall, 2611 Gerhardt St. in Cape Girardeau.

Republicans will meet at 10 a.m. March 15 at the Cape Girardeau County Administration Building, 1 Barton Square in Jackson. Republicans will elect people to attend the party's district and national conventions. Those conventions, in turn, will select delegates to the Republican National Convention, which will be held in September in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minn.

In both instances, voters seeking to take part in the mass meetings must be on hand at the starting time for the events. The names of participating voters will be recorded, and in the case of Democrats, checked against voter rolls to make sure they voted in the Feb. 5 primary.

Democratic Party rules limit the possibility of shenanigans during the meeting. Both U.S. Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois and U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York received enough votes in Cape Girardeau County on Feb. 5 to win a portion of the delegation, said Brenda Woemmel, Democratic Party county chairwoman.

The Democrats will elect 12 people in all to the state and district conventions, she said. Clinton's camp will elect eight delegates, four men and four women, and Obama's supporters will have the right to choose four delegates, two men and two women.

After the meeting is called to order, voters attending will split into camps of Clinton and Obama supporters and select the delegates from among their group. Because it is based on the Feb. 5 primary results, a large turnout of Obama supporters, for example, would not win that candidate extra delegates, Woemmel said.

The Republican method of selecting representatives for the district and state conventions could make for a divisive day. While all the delegates selected at the state and district conventions will be pledged to U.S. Sen. John McCain under the GOP's winner-take-all rules for the Missouri primary, the actual makeup of the delegation could be controlled by any faction that shows up in sufficient numbers to control the voting.

In 1996, Cape Girardeau County had a divisive meeting that lasted for nearly eight hours, Republican state committeewoman Donna Lichtenegger of Jackson said. That meeting was for true control of the delegation because there was no primary in Missouri that year.

And in 1988, in a few counties, most notably Boone County, supporters of television evangelist Pat Robertson took control of the delegations by showing up in large numbers despite presidential primary results that gave all Missouri's delegates to then-U.S. senator Bob Dole.

Lichtenegger noted that supporters of Pat Buchanan were strong enough to win a delegate in 1996 when most party regulars supported Dole. "It got pretty testy in a lot of areas," she said.

Cape Girardeau Republicans will elect a total of 35 delegates to the state and district conventions.

Another difference between Democrats and Republicans is that while the Democratic meeting will be held solely to elect delegates to the next level, Republicans will also debate any proposed amendments or additions to the state party platform adopted by the GOP state committee earlier this month in Springfield, Mo.

The platform, Lichtenegger said, represents what the state committee believes Republican rank-and-file want. But the caucuses, and later the conventions, will have the opportunity to debate and propose changes.

"The big thing is that people will want to put their two cents in on the platform," she said.


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