Afternoon Jolt

Smith Defends Clinton Endorsement

Southeast Seattle congressman pressed by voters about his Clinton endorsement.

By Josh Feit April 13, 2016

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The official numbers are in from this week's 37th Legislative District Democrats meeting where the party's top-of-the-ticket incumbents—none of whom who are facing an intraparty challenge—failed to win early endorsements from the Southeast Seattle group.

Candidates needed 80 percent to score an early endorsement. And here's what they each got:

Governor Jay Inslee: 52.2 percent

U.S. senator Patty Murray: 64.1 percent

State attorney general Bob Ferguson: 70 percent

And oh so close: U.S. representative Adam Smith (D-WA, 9): 79.1 percent

It takes a 60 percent vote to get the group's regular endorsement, which they'll take up in late May.

One candidate, Tina Podlodowski, the only one who's not an incumbent (she's running for secretary of state against Republican incumbent Kim Wyman), easily won the group's early endorsement, getting 89.5 percent of the vote.

37th Legislative District chair Rory O'Sullivan said Inslee's failure to veto the charter schools bill brought down Inslee's numbers. Irony alert: State representative Eric Pettigrew (D-37, Southeast Seattle), the district's own rep in Olympia, is one of the few Democrats who broke ranks to help the Republicans pass the bill out of the Democratic house; nine house Democrats, including Pettigrew, but no others from Seattle, voted yes in the 58-39 vote. (It passed the GOP-controlled senate as well.)

O'Sullivan also said  that some people in the room spoke up to say they were simply "against the concept of giving out early endorsements" before candidate filing week in mid May when the group would then do its traditional primary election endorsements. O’Sullivan concluded, “I don’t see these votes as necessarily a repudiation of the candidates.” He also said some voters abstained.

Given that only seven voters didn’t vote for Podlodowski, it’s not clear how widespread the vote against early endorsements in principle actually was, though.

O’Sullivan says Murray’s yes vote on the Trans-Pacific Partnership hurt her chances for the early endorsement.

Meanwhile, Smith, who represents the ninth U.S. congressional district, which stretches from Tacoma north through Southeast Seattle, attended the endorsement meeting and did a lengthy Q&A; one issue voters pressed Smith on was his superdelegate status and his Hillary Clinton endorsement.

Smith, who announced he doesn’t believe in the superdelegate process (he called it "insane"), said he stands by his Clinton endorsement, but come Democratic convention time, he will cast his superdelegate vote for whichever candidate gets the most pledged delegates.

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“I endorsed Hillary Clinton, and I continue to support her, but when we get to the convention, the candidate that has the most pledged delegates should be the candidate who gets nominated, and I would not take a vote that would make that go in a different direction."

However, Smith concluded : "I'm not backing off of my endorsement of Hillary."

To that, someone in the audience said: "Every single county went for Bernie. How can you stand there and say you won't consider changing your vote?" And another person added: "How can you expect people to support you if you don't support the voters of the state?"

Smith, stressing his role as a private individual and congressman, as opposed to his role as a superdelegate, defended his Clinton endorsement despite the state’s caucus results for Sanders (where six percent of voters turned out): “I don’t believe that as an elected official, I simply have to bow to whatever the majority of people show up at the caucus did…now, I do believe that it would be wrong for me to go there as a superdelegate and vote to overturn the will of the Democratic Party. But to change my endorsement based on the opinions of people, when we’re talking about an independent thing here…this is not part of my role as representative of this district, it’s just my role as an elected official.”

Watch the video of Smith's remarks here; the Hillary v. Bernie discussion kicks in around the three-minute mark: 



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