Demos hoping for more unity
When the Texas Democrats meet in convention this weekend, June 6-7, in Austin, party leaders are hopeful that the tension of the tight nomination race between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton will be put to rest.
The Democratic leaders are somewhat nervous, because their caucus turnout was enormous, and many of the record number of state convention delegates will be attending their first one.
Obama claimed the nomination on Tuesday night after the final primaries in South Dakota and Montana. But Clinton did not concede.
Seasoned party leaders, like former Democratic National Committee Chairman Bob Strauss, are calling for the focus to shift as soon as possible to beating Republican John McCain in November.
"The battle has lasted 15 months," Strauss, who has remained uncommitted, wrote in an open letter the middle of last month. "Tens of millions have participated, including record numbers of new voters, and the amount of campaign contributions has been unprecedented. We all should be proud of what has been accomplished.
"But Democrats should also understand that prolonging our internal war seriously endangers our chance to recapture the presidency," Strauss warned.
The Texas Democratic Superdelegates - members of Congress and party leaders - split almost evenly between Clinton and Obama.
Most Texas members of Congress from predominantly Hispanic districts, which heavily favored Clinton, endorsed her. Most of the rest endorsed Obama.
In addition to winning back the White House, Strauss and others know that party unity will be necessary to coach new Democratic voters about supporting Democrats further down the ballot.
The Texas Democrats hope that if there's enough harmony, and the enthusiastic participation by new voters in primary continues into the general election, they might actually regain majority status in the Texas House of Representatives. They currently have 70 members to the Republicans' 80.
And while they don't hold out hope of regaining the majority in the Texas Senate, which they lost in 1995 - Republicans now hold a 20-11 edge - the Democrats think they are competitive for Republican seats currently held by Republicans (Kim Brimer of Fort Worth, Mike Jackson of LaPorte, and Kyle Janek of Houston, who just resigned), and have an outside shot at a fourth (Chris Harris of Arlington).
That's why they want the nomination acrimony to end and unity efforts under way by Obama and Clinton - including hopes that perhaps both will appear at the convention.
Garry Mauro, Clinton's long-time friend who's running her Texas campaign, said either Clinton or her husband will appear at the convention. And she won't concede the race to Obama by then either, Mauro told the Austin American-Statesman Monday. "She's not quitting."
Mauro said even the superdelegates who have committed to Obama are free to change their minds before the August national convention. But by late afternoon on Tuesday ((6/3)) and into Wednesday, a flood of superdelegates endorsed Obama - including several who had previously endorsed Clinton.
Just as Obama was ramping up to claim the Democratic nomination after primaries in Montana and South Dakota on Tuesday, June 3, he suffered another unwelcome distraction, which a long-ago aide to Bill Clinton might have called a "Preacher Eruption."
The latest pulpit bombshell came from Catholic Priest Michael Pfleger as a guest preacher at Obama's Trinity United Church of Christ on May 25. Pfleger mocked Hillary Clinton for getting teary-eyed before the New Hampshire primary, and said Clinton was shocked because Obama upset her expected coronation as the Democratic nominee.
Obama's campaign condemned Pfleger's remark, and four days later, Obama said he was "deeply disappointed" in Pfleger's "divisive, backward-looking rhetoric." Pfleger apologized later that day.
But that incident, atop the controversy over harsh remarks about America by the church's former Pastor, Jeremiah Wright, finally took its toll. Obama announced Saturday, May 31,that he and his wife Michelle had resigned from the church "with some sadness."
The church was where Obama had found Christ, had gotten married, and where their two daughters were baptized. Obama said he hoped their resignation would help withdraw the church from the political spotlight.
\But that's unlikely. The Texas Republican Party, which holds its convention June 12-14 in Houston, has as the backdrop on its web page a photo of a smiling Obama with his hand around Wright's shoulder.