Leader Blues

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

TOP STORY > >Gwatney, O’Brien head for Democratic convention

Leader senior staff writer

Two Jacksonville men are among the 47 Arkansas delegates headed to the national Democratic convention in Denver this August, one committed to Barack Obama, the other having endorsed Hillary Clinton.

Pulaski County Clerk Pat O’Brien is an Obama delegate.

Bill Gwatney, who owns Gwatney Chevrolet and is chairman of the Democratic Party of Arkansas, has endorsed Clinton.

Republicans have not yet elected their delegates, but all 34 are expected to be committed to John McCain at the Republican National Convention, Sept. 1-4 at St. Paul, Minn. McCain has wrapped up the Republican presidential nomination.

Karen Ray, the executive director of the Arkansas Republican Party, said the congressional-level Arkansas Republican delegates would be chosen May 3, with the at-large candidates chosen June 14. She said no candidates were seeking to be delegates from the Jacksonville or Sherwood area, but that several people from the Cabot area had expressed an interest.

“The process is the same as it has been in the past,” said O’Brien Tuesday. “But this is the first time in recent memory that the delegate selection process has mattered in Arkansas.”

He said the presidential primary was usually in May, and the Democratic presidential nomination is generally decided by then.

O’Brien campaigned in Iowa and Texas for Obama and Saturday was elected the sole Obama delegate from among pledged party leaders and elected officials.

Darinda Sharp, the party’s communications director, said that Gwatney remained neutral through the presidential primary, but since Democratic voters in the state overwhelmingly endorsed Clinton, he has said she’ll get his vote at the convention. The
Democrats will send 47 delegates, 39 of them either pledged to Clinton or else having endorsed her, according to Sharp.

Among the 22 congressional district-level delegates, Clinton has 17, Obama 5.

Among the eight at-large delegates, Clinton has six, Obama 2.

Five pledged party leaders and elected officials are Clinton delegates. They are Lt. Gov. Bill Halter, Atty. Gen. Dustin McDaniel,
Secretary of State Charlie Daniels and Treasurer Martha Shoffner.

O’Brien is the sole Obama delegate among the pledged party leaders and elected officials. In an election Saturday at the state
meeting, O’Brien defeated state Sen. Linda Chesterfield for that distinction.

The unpledged party leaders and elected officials are unofficially known as super delegates.

Of the unpledged party leaders and elected officials, only state Lands Commissioner Mark Wilcox and Democratic National Committee vice chairman Lottie Shackelford have not made an endorsement, according to Sharp.

In addition to Gwatney, those who have endorsed the former Arkansas First Lady are Gov. Mike Beebe, Sen. Blanche Lincoln, Sen. Mark Pryor, Cong. Marion Berry, Cong. Vic Snyder, Cong. Mike Ross, Arkansas Party Vice Chairman Karla Bradley, Democratic Na-tional Committeeman Don Bea-vers, and Democratic National Committeewoman Martha Dixon.