DENVER – When Rep. Elijah Cummings promised a unified Maryland delegation that would be a “role model for the nation” at the Democratic National Convention on Monday, it sounded like wishful thinking. After all, powerful Maryland Democrats backed Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York early in the primaries.
Muddled negotiations about Clinton’s role at the convention further angered her delegates, and it was widely perceived that she was not seriously considered for the vice presidential nomination, which went to Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware.
But at Wednesday night’s roll call vote, when Obama became the party’s official nominee, Maryland cast 94 of its 100 votes for Obama and only six for Clinton. The votes, in the end, didn’t matter, because Clinton moved to end the roll call early and nominate Obama by acclamation, “with one voice.”
The states voted in alphabetical order, and Marylanders displayed far greater unity than many other states in the lead-up to Clinton’s motion on behalf of New York.
Maryland delegates who chose Clinton said they were disappointed their candidate was not the nominee, but that the roll call helped heal wounds inflicted by this spring’s primary campaigns. They were confident that a more unified Democratic Party would leave Denver this week.
“I think that healing happened on the floor [Wednesday] and the day before,” when Clinton gave a speech to the convention, said Mary Boergers, a former Maryland state senator from Chevy Chase who has been an outspoken supporter of Clinton. “I really feel like the party is strongly united.”
Boergers and the five other Clinton-voting delegates formed “the Stalwart Six,” in the words of Mary-Ann Keeffe, who sits on the convention’s Rules Committee and has been a Clintonite since serving in former President Clinton’s administration.
The remaining members are Nancy Floreen, a Montgomery County councilwoman from Garrett Park; Ellis Mottur, of Bethesda, who was assistant secretary of commerce in the Clinton administration; Marcia Massey, an educator from Silver Spring; Mike Eaves, a real estate agent and party leader from Forest Hill; and Dion Gutherie, a Harford County councilman who lives in Joppatowne.
The “Stalwart Six” joined many of the 1,920 delegates Clinton won in the primaries for a mid-afternoon meeting Wednesday with their candidate at the Colorado Convention Center.
There, Clinton told them that she had placed a vote for Obama by paper ballot that morning, and that delegates should support the de facto Democratic nominee.
She also told them that she “respected our conscience,” and stopped short of ordering delegates to fall in line with the party, said Mottur, who has been loyal to the Clintons since working with Hillary Clinton on a piece of legislation in 1991, and becoming friends of the family.
“Even though I am very disappointed that she wasn’t the nominee, the main thing now is to win in November,” he said, echoing the views of other Clinton delegates who say they will now move on to support the Democratic ticket.
Gutherie, the Harford County councilman, said he felt he fulfilled an important responsibility in casting his vote for Clinton. “Normally, your obligation” – as an elected, pledged delegate – “is to vote on behalf of who sent you here. Three hundred people elected me to be a delegate for Clinton and I was not going to disenfranchise those people,” he said.
Now that Obama has secured the nomination, he said, “I’ll support the ticket 100 percent.”
The delegates were glad to have the opportunity to give voice to their support for the former candidate. Boergers was initially concerned that Clinton would end the roll call even earlier, before any states had a chance to vote.
But the roll progressed all the way to New Mexico before that state yielded to Illinois. The delegates of Obama’s home state passed the mantle to New York and Clinton moved for the acclamation. By that time, Clinton had amassed 231 delegates compared to Obama’s 1,549.
“You get to feel like you are part of something,” said Boergers. “The way they did it, I think was fine.”
But the ambiguity going into the convention and sense that the New York senator was not seriously considered for the vice presidency still pains Clinton’s remaining delegates. “All of this heartache seemed unnecessary,” Boergers said.
While the party, including the “Stalwart Six,” appears to have regrouped behind their Obama-Biden ticket, Clinton delegates remind that 18 million people voted for their candidate in the primaries, according to the most inclusive count tracked by Real Clear Politics. That’s the largest turnout for any candidate in the history of the nominating race.
“In order to bring those 18 million voters back in, and have them all vote Democratic, she should have been vice president,” said Mottur.