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Minnesota delegates unite for Obama

By Marisa HelmsWednesday, Aug. 27, 2008
DENVER — After their candidate came so close, most of the state delegates supporting Hillary Rodham Clinton heed her call and rally to support Barack Obama.

A unified Minnesota delegation joins in supporting Barack Obama's nomination.
MinnPost photo by Marisa Helms
A unified Minnesota delegation joins in supporting Barack Obama’s nomination.

DENVER — A couple of hours before today’s roll call, a small but vocal group stood near the entrance to the Pepsi Center holding Hillary Rodham Clinton signs and indignantly chanting: “Fair and honest roll call! Let the delegates vote!”

But down the road apiece, the senator from New York was sending a different message to her supporters and plotting her motion to make all post-New York votes go en masse to Barack Obama. 

In other words, despite the pleas of hardcore Hillary-ites, there wasn’t a lot of suspense about whether there would be a last-minute coup by Clinton supporters to claim the nomination or disrupt unity plans.

Minnesota’s 88 delegates came to the Democratic National Convention with 27 votes pledged to Clinton. In the end, following Clinton’s public statement releasing her delegates from their commitments, only eight cast their votes for her.

Clinton supporter Patrick Coleman (a brother of St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman) is among the 19 delegates who changed his vote to Obama.

“I was conflicted,” Coleman said. “Months ago, I promised a whole bunch of people I would come here and work for Hillary, and I did.”

Clinton supporters Charles Carlson, left, and Patrick Coleman end up casting opposing votes.
MinnPost photo by Marisa Helms
Clinton supporters Charles Carlson, left, and Patrick Coleman end up casting opposing votes.

But Coleman says he decided to change his vote after hearing Clinton speak earlier in the day.

“Hillary said she filled out her ballot for Obama, and she urged us to come out of here and work our tail off for Barack Obama,” says Coleman. “And I’m happy to do that. I’m comfortable with my vote.”

Sitting next to Coleman on the convention floor, delegate and Clinton campaign volunteer Charles Carlson held out till the end and cast his vote for her.

Minnesota delegate Ralph Remington
MinnPost photo by Marisa Helms
Minnesota delegate Ralph Remington

“After all I’ve given, and all the people who’ve elected me to come here to get here, it was the only thing I felt was appropriate under the circumstances,” said Carlson. “Plus, I look forward to telling my grandmother I voted for the first woman president.”

Despite his allegiance, Carlson said, he’ll heed Clinton’s message and leave the convention supporting Obama. He says he plans to donate money and go door-knocking for him when he gets back to Minneapolis.

For the many delegates who were always pledged to Obama, the roll call was an affirmation of their loyalty.

Minneapolis City Council Member Ralph Remington made his colleagues chuckle when he said of himself and the delegates sitting near him: “We’re all Obama straight up! Whiskey, no chaser!”

Minnesota delegate Matthea Little
MinnPost photo by Marisa Helms
Minnesota delegate Matthea Little displays the Minnesota delegation’s final tally.

Delegate Matthea Little called the nomination process “overwhelming” and looks forward to Obama’s acceptance speech Thursday night.

“The big thing for me is, tomorrow 45 years ago, my dad (former president of the Minnesota NAACP, Matthew Little) led the contingent from Minnesota to Washington to hear Martin Luther King Jr. speak,” says Little. “Now his daughter gets to see the result of what he and Martin Luther King worked for.”