Can't Quit Clinton

An ardent group of local Hillary supporters still think their candidate has a shot.

Almost everything has changed for Laura Chelton in the months sinceHillary Clinton conceded the Democratic Party's Presidential nomination to Barack Obama, except the candidate Chelton supports: Hillary Clinton. Chelton is the local chapter head of 18 Million Voices, one of a myriad pro-Hillary grassroots organizations that have sprung up nationwide since the Rules Committee voted to deny requests to seat delegates from Florida and Michigan at the convention. (The states had been strippedoftheir delegates due tononcompliance with party strictures concerning the dates of their primaries.) Shortly afterward, Clinton endorsed Obama's candidacy. Nevertheless, Chelton, a Queen Anne nanny, along with fellow Clinton supporters like Jeannie Stratton and William Boe, is working to get as many people to the convention as possible with the goal of seeing their candidate win the nomination at last. "Obama is not officially nominated," says Boe, a downtown attorney who worked on Clinton's campaign in several Western states. "She did endorse [Obama], so [Clinton] is not officially in the race anymore, but she didn't release her delegates." What that means to Boe is that the delegates Clinton gained in her primary victories are still obligated to vote for her. If enough superdelegates who have declared for Obama change sides at the convention, Boe reasons, it may be Clinton who faces John McCain in the November general election. "We want to make it very clear that we want Hillary at the top of the ballot," says Chelton. In order to bolster their cause, Chelton and her right-hand woman Stratton have organized meetings all over the Seattle area, and have formed an online social network at Meetup.com. The members of this group convene in person every Monday night to spread information to interested newcomers and to assist one another in making plans for the convention, where they hope to convince superdelegates who've declared for Obama to change sides. But Dwight Pelz, the chair of the Washington State Democratic Party, says he feels these supporters are wasting their time. "Do they have a chance? Absolutely not," he says. "Barack Obama is the Democratic nominee, not Hillary Clinton. I don't have any other comment other than that." Should their efforts to sway superdelegates fail, Chelton, Boe, and Stratton, along with several of their fellow grassroots campaigners, have resolved to do something they would have thought unthinkable before their involvement in this race: vote for John McCain in the general election. "No matter who the vice-presidential nominee is, I just can't vote for Obama," says Stratton. "I just don't think he has the experience or the contacts to do what this country needs right now." What makes former Clinton supporter Greg Nebler mad is the possibility that people like Stratton could put McCain in the White House. Nebler went to his precinct caucus to support Clinton, but feels it's important to know when you've lost. "I've seen the sites for these groups, and they sound bitter, and really kind of insane," says Nebler, who is considering volunteering for the Obama campaign after the late-August convention. "They're not helping anything and it won't work.Get over it, you know? I did." Caught between the 18 Millionaires and those like Nebler are people like Jordan Yin and Elaine Ferris. Yin has seen fliers for Chelton's meet-ups, but is unsure whether she can take another disappointment. "I feel stuck, because I can't stand McCain, and Obama just hasn't won my trust just yet," says Yin, a junior at Seattle Pacific University. "I was so angry when Hillary endorsed him because I didn't think it was over yet. I'd like to think it's not, so these grassroots people appeal to me, but I don't know how realistic it is to believe in them." While Yin says she will probably be able to vote for Obama in the general election if she has to—especially if he chooses Clinton as his running mate—Ferris, a Ballard grandmother, is less sure. "I had sort of hung my hopes on Hillary," says Ferris, nodding toward her front window, where a Hillary '08 sign still sits. "I don't think I'll head to the convention, but for those people that do, I wish them all the luck in the world." "If I can't vote for Hillary, I don't know what I'll do," she adds. "At this point, it's up to the other candidates to convince me to vote at all." ebreysse@seattleweekly.com

 
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