Superdelegates Are People, Too, Says Dean
By Kari Lydersen
CHICAGO -- While the Democratic presidential primary process has attracted most of the attention in recent months, the day-to-day business of Democratic politics grinds on. For Democratic National Committee chair Howard Dean, that means fund-raising for the general election race, regular outreach to core constituency groups, and -- these days -- defending the superdelegate system.
And so it was that a roomful of Democratic party politicos and leaders of Chicago's gay and lesbian business community congregated in a restaurant owned by city councilman Tom Tunney in the city's vibrant "Boystown" neighborhood last night. Though the event was not officially described as outreach to the gay and lesbian community, Dean's and DNC treasurer Andy Tobias's remarks focused almost exclusively on what Democrats have done for this demographic in various states, on such issues as same-sex marriage, adoption rights, domestic partner benefits, non-discrimination legislation and efforts to repeal the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy.
"I like to remind straight audiences that the first man who took a bullet for George W. Bush in Iraq was (Staff Sgt.) Eric Alva, a gay man," said Dean, also criticizing the military's expulsion of gay Arabic-language translators.
He cheered Democrats for higher primary voter turnout in even traditionally Republican states. "In all states we are consistently out-turning-out them," he said. "Though maybe not out-outing them."
Dean pointed to city councilwoman Sandra Jackson in the crowd gathered below murals of Swedish maids and clusters of lingonberries to defend the concept of superdelegates, seemingly a sore point. "Let's not get too cranked up about superdelegates, they are just like you and just like me and just like Sandi," he said, adding that one of Wisconsin's superdelegates is a 21-year-old gay college student.
The hosts declined to take a position or comment on either Barack Obama's or Hillary Clinton's campaigns, saying their focus was promoting Democratic values and making sure a Democrat wins the White House, avoiding what they call "a third term for George W. Bush" in the form of John McCain.
"We have two superb candidates, an embarrassment of riches in every way except cash," said Tobias. He made clear that along with thanking these likely Democratic voters, the $85-per-person "grass roots" gathering was meant to fund the courting of less-sure voters.
"We'd love to send Governor Dean back to Washington with a pocketful of gay Chicago money," said Evanston resident Julie Matthei.
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