On March 5, all 95 Tennessee counties selected Democratic Party delegates to qualify for the Congressional District Delegate Convention. And, in turn, on March 19, those at the District selected who will represent Tennessee at the National Democratic Convention in Philadelphia in late July. I always watched those conventions with curiosity puzzled by the spectacle and by how those delegates with straw hats wearing numerous political buttons were chosen to be there. Here’s how.
One month prior, potential delegates completed an application with the State Democratic Party. Those who timely completed that application qualify to attend their respective County Party Convention. At 11:00 the doors were open for all to enter: at 12:00 the doors were closed and no one else entered (imagine this occurring 95 times in Tennessee at the same time). Once inside, the delegates completed a statement declaring who was their candidate – and that they had voted Democratic in the Primary. At the designated time, two groups caucused separately to determine who would be elected to attend the Congressional District Convention. Hillary delegates voted for Hillary delegates and Bernie delegates voted for Bernie delegates. All votes taken were by hands or by standing – no hanging chad.
The State Party had previously stated how many delegates can be chosen from each County for each candidate. In this case, six Hillary delegates could potentially be elected as delegates to my 6th Congressional Convention. However, since my District only has two voting precincts in my County (all other precincts are in the 5th Congressional District), there was only one Hillary delegate willing to be a District delegate. Me. I nominated, voted, and declared myself the winner. Unanimously. One other Bernie delegate was similarly chosen to attend by her caucus of one. Approximately twenty people attended this convention and all 18 of them were chosen delegates for the 5th District, which was bigger.
On March 19, all 6th Congressional District Delegate county delegates (175) gathered in Cookeville at their Convention, simultaneously as were other delegates to the other eight Tennessee Congressional Districts. Again, doors opened and closed at the same time. But, whoa, this was the big time! Other counties brought numerous delegates to support their nominee for the National Convention. Little ole me did not have any support, and I was not going to nominate myself, in this case. Even though I knew many of the people because of my prior Hillary work in the counties, every county had their own delegate to support. It was fascinating to watch the process, so I decided to enjoy the beauty contest.
Each candidate was nominated by someone who could speak 30 seconds on the candidate’s worthiness, such as: been a life-long Democrat, been active in the County party, once met Hillary, etc. After nominated, all nominees stood in front of the room and were given one minute to state their case on why they should be chosen delegate. After the speeches, we chose our first male Hillary delegate by standing when the presiding officials announced our preferred nominee’s name. Everybody could see who voted for whom. Then, we did the same for our female Hillary nominee, our second male nominee, and finally for our female alternate. In the Bernie caucus, they chose one female delegate (similarly, the State Party had prior stated how many delegates –and gender and alternate – each Congressional District could send for each candidate based on the percentage of votes Hillary and Bernie had won in our state Primary). In sum, our District sent five delegates to the National Conventions: two males, one female delegate, and one female alternate for Hillary; and, one female for Bernie.
In all, 44 delegates for all the nine Tennessee congressional districts were chosen that day. The other 34 delegates for Tennessee (78 total) are either super delegates or delegates-at-large. I could still be chosen as one of the 14 delegates-at-large by the State Party in April. In all, it’s a fascinating process with all its pomp and quirks. Stay tuned for my next saga of this wacky, unprecedented Presidential campaign.