Presidential races

Key Sanders backer: DNC chair must apologize

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The chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) should apologize to Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders for her handling of the primary fight with front-runner Hillary Clinton, says Nina Turner, the Ohio state lawmaker and high-profile Sanders surrogate.

In an interview with The Hill, Turner stopped just short of calling for Wasserman Schultz to resign but said that, at a minimum, there should be an apology.

{mosads}“My husband told me I needed to be ready to answer this question,” Turner said. “It’s hard for me to say because I try not to judge people based on one snapshot of their lives or their career, but she should certainly apologize to Sen. Sanders for her words and deeds in making this an unfair fight.

“At the minimum, she should apologize for that,” Turner continued. “So I’ll withhold judgment, and I’m not saying no.”

A DNC official responded by saying that the group is neutral in the primary. The official noted that Wasserman Schultz has repeatedly praised both candidates for running substantive campaigns that are focused on issues, rather than politics.

But Sanders on Saturday steered the discourse deeper into the political realm by endorsing Wasserman Schultz’s primary challenger, Tim Canova. Sanders did not call on Wasserman Schultz to resign but signaled that he’d replace her as DNC chair if he becomes president.

Sanders supporters have a laundry list of complaints with the DNC but are especially angry about the reaction from Wasserman Schultz and other Democrats to last weekend’s rowdy Nevada Democratic state convention. 

Upset over the process, Sanders supporters at the convention shouted down Democratic officials as they sought to gain control of the event. The state party’s chairwoman later received death threats and nasty messages.

Turner and others who attended the convention, however, say reports of violence are false.

While Wasserman Schultz, Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid (Nev.) and other Democrats called on Sanders to condemn violence by his supporters, his supporters charge that no video evidence of any physical violence — including chair throwing — has emerged.

That’s despite a series of stories in the media that have accepted as fact the reports of violent behavior.

For Sanders supporters such as Turner, it’s just the latest example of a machine working against them.

They have also been upset over the debate schedule put together by the DNC, the suspension at one point of Sanders’s access to a voter database over allegations of a data breach, and the organization’s setting up of a joint fundraising committee with Clinton’s campaign.

“My heart is heavy and heartbroken, and I’m very disappointed at how the DNC has operated,” said Turner, who laid blame on Wasserman Schultz.

“They haven’t been fair from the start, first with the debates and then with the data breach. … She’s jumped from 0 to 60 on Sanders without ever taking the necessary steps behind the scenes to see what the truth is,” Turner said.

“Before you jump the gun in public the way she’s done, she has a responsibility as a leader to find out where the truth lies and bring people together,” she said. “You can’t chastise one side in public. You have to do the work behind the scenes if you expect people to come together. She didn’t take the time to find out our side of the story before vilifying Sanders and his supporters in Nevada.”

Turner also characterized the DNC’s offer of seats on a convention platform subcommittee to Sanders supporters as “crumbs.” She said it would be difficult to get Sanders fans to back Clinton with such offerings.

“It’s very minimal, what they’re offering. It’s crumbs, and I caution them in doing this because if Clinton is the nominee, the DNC is going to have to go to our supporters with a straight face and ask them to support her,” Turner said. “That will be a problem for some supporters of Bernie Sanders.”

The Sanders campaign is signaling it intends to battle with Clinton as far as the national convention in Philadelphia in July, where superdelegates will cast their votes for a nominee.

While Sanders trails Clinton in total votes cast, states won and pledged delegates in the primary, he argues that superdelegates could shift from Clinton to him, handing him a victory in Philadelphia. 

Most observers see such calculations as far-fetched at best, and Clinton this week said with certainty she will be the Democratic nominee. 

But Sanders has noted surveys that show Clinton with high unfavorability ratings and polls in which he fares better than she does against presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump.

Turner said Sanders will continue to point out that he runs strongest against Trump.

“The fact of the matter is, if the secretary is the nominee, the American people will have to decide between two candidates with the highest unfavorability ratings in history,” she said.

The tensions have raised concerns in the Democratic Party about whether it can unify around a candidate in the fall. Republicans, who for much of the primary process have themselves been divided, have expressed glee over Twitter about the Democratic splits.

For the party to unify, Turner says much depends on Washington Democrats.

She accused Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), a Clinton supporter booed off the stage in Las Vegas at the Nevada state convention, of fanning the flames this week with her public comments. Boxer said she feared for her safety at the convention.

“Democrats can put their heads in sand and think the family is going to come back together and sing ‘kumbaya,’ but that won’t happen unless something changes,” Turner said. “The DNC needs to treat Sanders differently moving forward if they want to attract and keep his supporters. It’s not going to be one big happy family. There will be tension, but it’s not going to be violent.”

Tags Barbara Boxer Bernie Sanders Donald Trump Harry Reid Hillary Clinton

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