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Mich. Dems settle on delegate-seating plan

The national party's Rules and Bylaws Committee must still approve the 69-59 Clinton-Obama delegate split when it meets May 31.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Michigan Democratic leaders on Wednesday settled on a plan to give presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton 69 delegates and Barack Obama 59 as a way to get the state's delegates seated at the national convention.

Clinton won the Jan. 15 Michigan primary and was to get 73 pledged delegates under state party rules, while Obama was to get 55. The state also has 29 superdelegates.

The state party's executive committee voted Wednesday to ask the national party's Rules and Bylaws Committee to approve the 69-59 delegate split when it meets May 31. The plan would allow the state's 157 delegates and superdelegates to be seated at the convention.

A separate plan submitted to the rules committee by Democratic National Committee members Joel Ferguson of Michigan and Jon Ausman of Florida, both superdelegates, apparently will be withdrawn now that the Michigan executive committee has settled on the 69-59 plan. Under their proposal, delegates would have been allocated based on the primary election results, but have had only half a vote each. The superdelegates would have had full voting rights.

A message seeking comment was left on Ferguson's cell phone Wednesday evening.

The DNC stripped Michigan and Florida of their convention delegates — 366 in all, including pledged delegates and superdelegates — for holding their primaries too early in the nominating process, which violated party rules.

The 69-59 split was proposed last week by four prominent Michigan Democrats who have been working for months to find a way to get Michigan's delegates seated at the Aug. 25-28 convention in Denver: Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, United Auto Workers President Ron Gettelfinger, Sen. Carl Levin and DNC member Debbie Dingell, wife of Rep. John Dingell.

January primary results won't be used
State party Chairman Mark Brewer said he thinks the state is closer to reaching a solution agreeable to the candidates and state and national party officials, although there is no guarantee that the rules committee will accept the plan or agree to seat the delegates.

"This does move the process forward in terms of stating our own position to the DNC," Brewer said Wednesday after the meeting.

Obama spokesman Bill Burton said of the decision, "It is clear results in January won't be used to allocate delegates, and we agree with that decision. We have been talking with Michigan leaders about this proposal and will continue to do so."

Clinton spokesman Isaac Baker said the campaign expects a quick resolution. "The bottom line is that the delegates from Michigan and Florida must be seated," he said in a statement released Wednesday night.

Trailing in delegates, Clinton and her campaign have been pressing for her wins in Florida and Michigan to be recognized and the delegates seated. Obama, who wants to preserve his lead, has suggested other solutions such as splitting the delegates evenly.

Obama joined several candidates who removed their names from Michigan's ballot, and Clinton and Obama agreed not to campaign in either state.

Meanwhile, former President Carter said Wednesday that delegates from Florida and Michigan should not be counted at the Democratic National Convention because they "disqualified themselves." He warned of a disaster if party insiders try to wrest the nomination from the candidate with the largest number of votes and state victories.

An attempt by so-called Democratic superdelegates to override the popular vote "would be an almost unacceptable thing," Carter told Jay Leno on "The Tonight Show."

If a candidate has a clear edge in votes, state-by-state wins and delegates claimed at caucuses and primaries, "I can't imagine that the superdelegates would go against them," Carter said. "It would be a catastrophe for the party."

Carter's comments came a day after the North Carolina and Indiana primaries, in which Obama padded his delegate lead over Clinton. In the tight race the judgment of superdelegates — elected officials and party insiders who can vote as they like at the party's August nominating convention — will almost certainly be decisive.

Carter, a superdelegate, has not expressed a preference in the race but has hinted that he supports Obama.