By HANNAH KLARNER
Capital News Service
PHILADELPHIA — Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders’ supporters in the Maryland delegation at the Democratic National Convention are following his lead in endorsing presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton, even in the aftermath of leaked emails implicating high-level party officials in trying to influence the primary process in favor of Clinton.
The Maryland delegate breakfast at the Inn at Penn on Monday kicked off the first convention day. Maryland Democratic Party Chairman Bruce Poole opened the breakfast with a short speech, joking that First Lady Michelle Obama’s address later that evening would be a preview of Ivanka Trump’s next speech.
But signs of disaffection among Sanders backers surfaced quickly.
Volunteers from the Sanders campaign collected signatures of delegates pledging support for the Vermont senator at the breakfast. One of the volunteers estimated they had roughly 35 signatures, which totals less than 3 percent of the Maryland delegation.
At-large delegate Darrell Cox, of Bowie, was interrupted during his speech when he declared Hillary Clinton the next president, and Sanders supporters shouted “Bernie!”
Sandra Falwell, 67, a Clinton delegate, said she supports Sanders for many reasons, but said, “I’m taking Bernie’s lead,” when it comes to whether she will vote for the former secretary of state.
Kendra Ziegler, 32, a delegate from Silver Spring, was a “Bernie or bust” voter for a brief period of time, but said she will follow Sanders’ lead.
“I trust that he will do a fantastic job leading me as a delegate,” she said.
An at-large delegate from Bowie, Darrell Carrington, 48, is also a Sanders supporter, but said he was “here to support the Democratic ticket.”
The opening of the Democratic National Convention comes just three days after Wikileaks published emails from members of the Democratic Party that appeared to show collusion among members of the leadership to ensure Clinton was the nominee.
Carrington said “we recognize that obviously our candidate won’t be the nominee.” But he added the idea that “our party conspired against a candidate is troubling.”
“I just feel validated,” by the email leak, Ziegler said, explaining she always felt the party was working against her candidate.
But the resignation of Democratic National Committee Chairman Debbie Wasserman Schultz was not much punishment because “she’s getting the job she’s already had for a year and a half,” as an honorary Clinton campaign adviser, Ziegler said.
Falwell said the “total conspiracy to keep a candidate down” is criminal, and Wasserman Schultz was the scapegoat the party needed.
“It had to be her,” she said.
“People have to take responsibility,” Carrington insisted. If the party is serious … we need a change of leadership.”
The Democratic delegates were staunchly opposed to Donald Trump, the Republican presidential nominee. Carrington referred to him as “the evil we see on the other side.”
Some of the delegates see this year’s contest as more than an election.
“This is life-or-death for many of us, as a queer woman, this is life-or-death,” Ziegler said. She also called Trump a “non-starter.”
Sanders faced some challenges presenting the most progressive platform for a Democratic candidate, she said.
And while the party is trending toward more progressive ideas, Ziegler said, “I have to remind myself, as a progressive, while our party is shifting in my direction, it’s not there yet.”
Sanders “presents the best and brightest of what we can be,” Carrington said.