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DNC chair Tom Perez ‘confident’ he has votes to revamp superdelegate rules

DNC President Tom Perez, shown Thursday at the Democratic National Committee summer meeting in Chicago. | Colin Boyle/Sun-Times

Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez told the Chicago Sun-Times he has the votes to win passage of new rules to curb the clout of superdelegates, an issue stemming from Bernie Sanders’ complaints in 2016 that the presidential nominating process was “rigged.”

Perez said in an exclusive interview he has counted DNC member vote pledges and “in this world, we learn arithmetic and I feel confident that we will be moving forward with the entire package of what I think are really important and bold reforms.”

Video by Colin Boyle | Lynn Sweet interviews Democratic National Committee chair Tom Perez at the DNC on August 24, 2018.

The full Democratic National Committee, holding its summer meeting in Chicago, votes Saturday on a package of reforms that would kick in for the 2020 presidential cycle, covering primary and caucus rules and the contentious matter of superdelegates.


LIVEBLOG: Keep track of what’s going as DNC members gather at summer meeting in Chicago

Superdelegates are elected and appointed officials and other party leaders – all DNC members – who are automatically delegates to the presidential nominating convention. The proposal calls for superdelegates to be stripped of their vote on the first ballot, unless the candidate has 50 percent of the vote.

The DNC has been working on this divisive issue since Sanders ran against Hillary Clinton in 2016. The DNC created a Unity Commission at the convention in Philadelphia after negotiations with the Sanders and Clinton campaigns.

The DNC meeting is at the Hyatt Regency, 151 E. Wacker Dr., where on Friday one could observe visible lobbying of DNC members for and against the changes.

This is the first major test for Perez, a former Labor Secretary under former President Barack Obama, who became DNC chairman in February 2017.

In an interview with the Sun-Times, Perez said the reforms members will vote on Saturday “are about growing the party. They’re about building trust. They are about rebuilding trust, frankly, in some cases.

“And they’re about making sure that people feel excited to be Democrats. We have a 2020 election cycle right around the corner and our goal is very simple.

“We want to make sure that every person who runs and everyone who participates feels like the process is fair. And our reforms are designed to increase participation in primaries, make caucuses where they exist more inclusive and addressing these issues of superdelegates that you mentioned,” Perez said.

“And by limiting the influence of superdelegates, it sends a very, very important signal to our voters that we are indeed the party of the grassroots.”

The DNC Rules and Bylaws committee approved the reforms in June, with 25 “ayes,” one “no” — from former DNC chair Don Fowler — and one abstention, from former interim DNC Chair Donna Brazile.

The Congressional Black Caucus has objected to the changes — a point Fowler, a leader of the opposition, made to the Sun-Times when he discussed DNC diversity.

Fowler underscored that about 200 African Americans, 100 Latinos and “dozens of LGBTQ people” will not be able to vote on that first ballot and stressed that the 700 superdelegates take in the top leaders of the DNC.

Video by Eliza Davidson

Brazile told the Sun-Times: “We deserve to have a voice in the process, whether it is at the table with a vote or behind the scenes, raising money for candidates or taking candidates around.”

She added: “We believe that automatic delegates should continue to play a role because we’re part of the sauce, we are part of the sauce for victory.”

It’s not just about party unity, Brazile said.

“This is about making sure that the party is strong enough, resistant enough, [and] resilient” as it heads toward the 2020 primary season, she said.

Video by Eliza Davidson and Colin Boyle | Lynn Sweet interviews Former interm chair of the Democratic National Committee at the

There is lingering antipathy among some DNC members against Sanders because he remains an Independent – not a Democrat.

Clem Balanoff, the chair of the Illinois Sanders campaign and its successor organization, Our Revolution, said reducing the power of superdelegates “will level the playing field.”

Balanoff said he got a call Monday from Democratic Party of Illinois Chair Michael Madigan – also the Speaker of the Illinois House – “to let me know that he was going to be in favor of the reform.”

On Friday night, Madigan released a letter pledging his backing, with most Illinois DNC members believed to be on board.

Symone Sanders, who was the national press secretary for Bernie Sanders campaign, told the Sun-Times the DNC “cannot afford to come out of this without a victory. It would be a blow to the committee if the reforms did not pass.”

Video by Colin Boyle | Lynn Sweet interviews Clem Balanoff, Illinois State chair of Our Revolution at the DNC summer meeting in