Democrats select final convention delegates, look to Philadelphia

The Arizona Democratic Party elected the final 25 of its delegates to July’s national convention, but the numbers had to reflect results of the March 22 election, under party rules. (Photo by Wafa Shahid/Cronkite News)

Arizona Democratic Party Executive Director Sheila Healy said the turnout at Saturday’s state party convention brought out “the most applicants we’ve ever seen” for delegate elections. (Photo by Wafa Shahid /Cronkite News)

One reason for the large turnout at Saturday’s Arizona Democratic Party convention, said one party official, was the shared opposition to GOP front-runner Donald Trump. (Photo by Wafa Shahid/Cronkite News)

Hillary Clinton is close to the 2,383 delegates needed to be nominated, but Dan O’Neal, a Bernie Sanders delegate, said he is confident that it will still be a contested convention. (Photo by Wafa Shahid/Cronkite News)

PHOENIX – Arizona Democrats gathered Saturday to choose the final delegates for the Democratic National Convention, in what one party official said was the largest turnout of would-be delegates she could remember.

“This is most applicants for delegate we’ve ever seen in Arizona, to my knowledge,” said Sheila Healy, executive director of the Arizona Democratic Party. “It’s really exciting so many people want to be part of the process.”

The outcome of that process was never in doubt, as the final number of delegates elected Saturday had to split according to the the popular vote in the March 22 presidential preference election, according to party rules.

In that vote, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton took 56 percent of the vote to Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ 41 percent.

The 25 delegates elected Saturday were party leaders and elected officials who are pledged to one candidate or the other. Clinton got 14 of those elected Saturday to Sanders’ 11.

Six alternate delegates elected Saturday were split evenly between the two candidates.

That brings the total number of Arizona delegates to the Democratic National Convention to 85, of which 75 are apportioned according to the popular vote. The remaining 10 “super” delegates are party officials who can vote however they like at the convention.

Despite the sometimes heated exchanges between the Clinton and Sanders campaigns in the ongoing primary, the mood at Saturday’s event was more excited than confrontational. But that doesn’t mean Sanders delegates have thrown in the towel.

“I don’t think either Hillary or Bernie will go into Philadelphia with the pledge delegates that are needed,” said Dan O’Neal, a Sanders delegate at the convention. “It will be a contested convention.

“We’re excited. We’re all feeling the Bern here,” O’Neal said.

But while Clinton has not officially locked up the nomination, Sanders chances of getting the 2,383 needed to win are growing increasingly slim. Clinton had 2,240 delegates – more than 500 of them super delegates – as of May 14 to Sanders 1,473, according to the latest estimates from the Associated Press.

State primary elections will continue until June 14. The national convention will be held July 25-28 in Philadelphia.

Healy said one reason she thinks so many party members turned out Saturday is because they don’t want presumptive Republican nominee “Donald Trump to be the president … and we’ve got two really exciting candidates on the Democrat side.”

Arizona party leaders spent much of Saturday’s convention gearing up for the national convention, talking about logistics like hotel accommodations and a breakdown of the convention layout.

“I’m really excited for Philadelphia,” Healy, said, “and I’m excited to work really hard for whoever our Democratic nominee is.”

-Cronkite News video by Wafa Shahid