Bernie Sanders scored a decisive victory Saturday in Colorado, taking a majority of the national delegates with a stronger-than-expected showing at a divided state Democratic convention.
The Vermont senator captured 41 delegates from the state’s 78-member delegation, inching him closer to front-runner Hillary Clinton in what the campaign suggested is a larger shift in the presidential race.
The margin gives Sanders a clear hold on Colorado — enough to overcome Clinton’s advantage among the state’s dozen superdelegates.
“It definitely shows the trend for Bernie Sanders in the state of Colorado is still really strong,” said state Rep. Joe Salazar, a top Sanders supporter. “I think he’s trending toward a win for this presidential nomination.”
The Sanders campaign won 63 percent in the presidential preference poll at the state convention in Loveland, where Democrats gathered amid a snowstorm that prevented hundreds from making the trip.
The vote represented an improvement onhis 59 percent victory at the March 1 caucus and gave Sanders 15 of the 23 delegates available at the convention: two more than theinitial Super Tuesday projections. Earlier, he claimed 26 delegates fromseven congressional district conventions.
Outnumbered in a caucus state that favored the high-energy Sanders campaign, Clinton supporters reacted to the final delegate count with resignation.
Clinton took 37 percent in the convention straw poll, 3 percentage points lower than the caucus vote, and won eight more national delegates. The campaign finished with 25 delegates to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia and expects to secure the vast majority — if not all — of the state’s superdelegates.
“We’ve been through this before; we know it’s a long haul,” said former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb, a prominent supporter. “We also believe the math is in our favor.”
The Sanders team distributed leaflets at the Budweiser Events Center that warned supporters to watch for “shenanigans” after a caucus process that left hundreds of voters in the cold and faced repeated questions about fairness.
Democratic Party chairman Rick Palacio’s admission during the week that the party misreported the caucus results — and kept it quiet until The Denver Post uncovered the error — only added to the animosity.
“To have the most fair and transparent and efficient convention process,” Palacio started the convention by adding a top official from the Sanders and Clinton campaigns to moderate events and serve as vice chairmen.
The Sanders campaign championed a slate of like-minded Democratic National Committee members for the next cycle, even though it won’t help their efforts this year.
“It’s not just about just one candidate. It’s about a movement. It’s about a revolution,” said Hayden Pollock, a 21-year-old restaurant manager from Grand Junction.
U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet took the brunt of the anger on the issue. He accepted his party’s nomination in a 20-minute speech interrupted three times with thundering chants of “change your vote” from Sanders supporters in the crowd.
Bennet, a Clinton supporter and superdelegate, preached a message of unity but it did little to quell his critics.
In an interview after his speech, Bennet said “their message was very heartfelt,” but he demurred on the question of whether he would pledge support to Sanders. Instead, Bennet clarified that he would support the candidate that wins the most pledged delegates in the primary race.
“There’s a time and place for a debate,” he said, referring to the chants. “And this is a time and a place for people to let their voices be heard — for me to hear those voices. And I think that’s what was accomplished today.”
Other elected officials and party leaders with superdelegate status are encountering similar pressure, especially after Sanders sympathizers posted their personal contact information to the Internet.
Brenna Payne, a 34-year-old state convention delegate, wrote a polite e-mail to Bennet asking him to support Sanders.
“I see both sides of it because people are saying Republicans sure wish they had (superdelegates) right now with how it’s going,” she said. “But at the same time, if the Colorado people overwhelmingly picked Bernie as their choice, we feel the superdelegates from Colorado should go that way.”
Mannie Rodriguez, a longtime Clinton supporter and superdelegate, received a huge stack of what he called “hate mail” just before the state convention. He said it distracts from the mission.
“The convention is supposed to be to unite us, to heal us,” he said. “We are supposed to come out of the convention ready to win, not come out looking like we are fighting.”