Clinton has superdelegate edge in Nevada and South Carolina
Hillary Clinton has already locked up half the Democratic superdelegates in Nevada and South Carolina before the first votes are cast in either state.
The former secretary of State has won public support from half of South Carolina’s six superdelegates and three of Nevada’s eight superdelegates. Bernie Sanders has secured only one, a Democratic national committeewoman from Nevada.
The role of superdelegates in the Democratic primary process is coming under new scrutiny after the early voting contests of Iowa and New Hampshire.
The superdelegates are made up of Democratic lawmakers and party leaders who can cast a vote for the party’s nominee during the Democratic National Convention. They have the freedom to back whoever they want, and are not bound by the results in their states.
While Sanders leads Clinton in pledged delegates, Clinton has an overwhelming lead among the superdelegates; more than 360 party leaders have backed her so far, while less than a dozen have backed Sanders.
The disparity has angered Sanders supporters. Some have launched petitions calling for the superdelegates to support the candidate chosen by Democratic voters.
While the majority of superdelegates are backing Clinton, they are free to change their minds up until their votes are cast at the nominating conventions. That’s what happened in 2008 as it became clear that Barack Obama could challenge and ultimately defeat Clinton.
With Nevada and South Carolina the next two stops on the road to the nomination, here are where their superdelegates stand.
Nevada (Democratic caucus Feb. 20)
Sen. Harry Reid (Neutral): The outgoing Senate Democratic leader has said he’ll stay neutral until after the caucuses. Reid didn’t publicly pick sides during the 2008 race between his two Senate colleagues, but later revealed that he encouraged Obama’s presidential bid.
Rep. Dina Titus (Clinton): Titus, a four-term congresswoman, immediately endorsed Clinton when she jumped into the race last April. The Nevada lawmaker was also an early supporter during her last presidential bid.
Roberta Lange, state party chair (Neutral): Lange has decided to stay neutral, as many party leaders have ahead of contests in their state. A former county Democratic chair, she served as former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson’s state director during his failed bid for the presidency in 2008.
Chris Wicker, state party first vice chair (Neutral): Wicker will also stay neutral because of the party’s role running the caucus, he told The Hill.
“We don’t want anybody to feel like the establishment has taken sides in the Nevada caucus,” he added.
State Sen. Ruben Kihuen, national committeeman (Clinton): The state lawmaker and congressional hopeful told the Associated Press last year that he’s supporting Clinton. The former aide to Reid is running to unseat Republican Rep. Cresent Hardy, a first term congressman.
Erin Bilbray, national committeewoman (Sanders): Bilbray is Sanders’ only pledged superdelegate in Nevada or South Carolina. She runs a nonprofit that encourages political activism among women and mounted an unsuccessful bid to unseat Rep. Joe Heck (R) in 2014.
Andres Ramirez, vice chair of the DNC Hispanic Caucus (Clinton): Ramirez is a Nevada political veteran who worked for Sen. Harry Reid much earlier in his career as a legislative aide. He disclosed his endorsement to The Associated Press last year.
Artie Blanco, DNC at-large member (Neutral): Blanco is a regional campaigns coordinator for the AFL-CIO and told The Hill that she will not publicly endorse so as to not get out front of the labor federation.
South Carolina (Democratic primary Feb. 27)
Rep. James Clyburn (Neutral): As the third-ranking Democrat in the House, Clyburn’s endorsement would be a major get. While he previously said he would remain neutral through the primary, he told reporters that he’ll likely make an endorsement after he meets with his family and friends at home over the weekend.
Jamie Harrison, state party chair (Neutral): Harrison told MSNBC on Thursday that he wouldn’t be picking sides until after the primary. The first African American to ever lead the state’s party, Harrison is a former aide to Clyburn.
Kaye Koonce, state party first vice chair (Clinton): Koonce, a former prosecutor and assistant state attorney general, is a longtime Clinton supporter who backed her 2008 bid as well.
Boyd Brown, national committeeman (Clinton): The former state representative announced his support of Clinton immediately after the Iowa caucuses. He had previously endorsed Martin O’Malley and served as his South Carolina co-chair before jumping ship to Clinton once he dropped out.
Donald Fowler, DNC at-large member (Clinton): Fowler served as the Democratic National Committee chairman during President Clinton’s reelection and backed Hillary Clinton as a superdelegate during the 2008 election. His wife, the state party chair in 2008, backed Barack Obama in her role as a superdelegate that year, creating a house divided.
State Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, national committeewoman (Neutral): Cobb-Hunter told The Hill that it’s her policy not to endorse in primaries and expressed discontent with the Congressional Black Caucus endorsing Clinton over Sanders. She said that in a contested convention where her pick would have consequence, she would choose who feels right to her, not necessarily choosing the candidate that won the state or district.