Not surprised, but disappointed. That was the reaction Monday from Bernie Sanders delegates from North Carolina about the thousands of leaked emails that revealed a bias for Hillary Clinton by Democratic National Committee officials.
The delegates said they were happy that DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz will step down over the controversy, but said that probably would not be enough to avoid further fractures in the party.
The state’s Clinton delegates agreed that the chairwoman’s departure was a positive move. Both groups praised her decision to hand the gavel to U.S. Rep. Marcia Fudge of Ohio to chair the convention.
“She’s an embarrassment to the Democratic Party, and she needed to go,” Wendy Ella May, a Sanders delegate from Johnston County, said of Wasserman Schultz.
Clinton superdelegate Olma Echeverri of Charlotte, a member of the Democratic National Committee, was critical of eruptions on the floor Monday by Sanders delegates who shouted over speakers.
“There’s a lot of selfishness around the issue of Bernie Sanders and disrupting the business of the convention,” she said while sitting with the N.C. delegation in the hall. “(The nomination) is obviously a done deal, so we need to work together to elect her. They need to stop dividing us.”
N.C. Democratic Party Chairwoman Patsy Keever said she’s hopeful the change in leadership will bring the party together. “I think she took one for the party,” Keever said. “ ... Most everybody in our delegation is ready to come on board and have a united party.”
But Sanders delegate Jeff Marshall of Winston-Salem said he remains undecided on whether to vote for Clinton. “I can always write in Bernie Sanders,” he said. “I’ll be watching to see if she helps bring moderates and liberals together. Then she’d be earning my vote.”
Many of North Carolina’s 49 Sanders delegates sat together in the Wells Fargo Center Monday afternoon as the convention began, wearing “Bernie” T-shirts and cheering whenever their candidate was mentioned.
The delegates chanted “no TPP,” referring to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, during the presentation of the party platform.
Marshall said Wasserman Schultz would have gotten an earful if she had appeared on stage — “the Guinness Book of World Records for boos.”
“What’s now come out is what we Bernie Sanders supporters have known all along,” Marshall said.
Several N.C. Sanders delegates said they would vote for the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee – some preferred saying that to mentioning Clinton by name – but predicted the news about the emails would make it harder for the former secretary of state to end the convention Thursday with a unified party behind her.
Jake Quinn, a member of the Democratic National Committee from Asheville who endorsed Sanders during the primary campaign, called for the ouster of other top members of the DNC implicated in the email controversy.
“They need to go as well. And for a simple reason: I need people to have faith in our party,” Quinn said.
Charlotte minister Ray McKinnon, a Sanders delegate and former head of the Young Democrats of Mecklenburg County, singled out national party officials’ emails questioning Sanders’ Jewish faith and suggesting a scheme to use Sanders’ religious beliefs to undermine his chances in the Kentucky and West Virginia primaries.
“The things ... said about Sen. Sanders were deplorable,” McKinnon said. “It does not speak to what this party is supposed to be. We don’t have religious tests on people.”
Still, McKinnon said the behavior by DNC officials working for Wasserman Schultz was not enough to dissuade him from voting for Clinton in November. “It doesn’t change the fact,” he said, “that Hillary Clinton will be a far better nominee than ... Donald Trump.”
Aisha Dew, who was state director for the Sanders campaign in North Carolina, struck a positive note, saying she was more excited about the African-American women – Fudge and DNC vice chairwoman Donna Brazile – who had been named to take over leadership roles from Wasserman Schultz during the convention and the coming general election campaign. Brazile will be interim chairwoman of the party through the November vote.
“I’m less concerned about the controversy,” Dew said, “and more interested in moving forward.”
Mecklenburg County Commissioner Pat Cotham, a Democratic National Committee member who endorsed Sanders late in the primary campaign, said Clinton complicated matters and hurt her own push for unity by announcing over the weekend that Wasserman Schultz will serve as honorary chairwoman of her campaign’s 50-state program to help elect Democrats around the country.
“If (Clinton) wanted to hire her, she could have waited weeks,” Cotham said. “It’s kind of raw now. That didn’t pass the smell test.”
Kennis Wilkins, a Clinton delegate from Williamston, said he thinks the two factions will come together by the end of the convention. “I think there’s still going to be dissension between Bernie people and Hillary people, but I think at the end we will come together,” he said, adding that the concessions he expected involving changes to the Democratic primary system will help. “The process already started.”
U.S. Rep. David Price of Chapel Hill, a longtime Clinton supporter who spoke at the N.C. delegation’s Monday breakfast meeting, said the emails did show some bias and “poor judgment” on the part of some national party officials. But, he added, “I don’t think they add up to some kind of dire conspiracy in the way some people are suggesting.”
Price, a member of the House Committee on Homeland Security, said he is more concerned about reports that Russia may have had a role in hacking the emails. He said it’s still uncertain whether any foreign government officials were involved.
“It’s truly an alarming development if any kind of state actors are involved in hacking our systems,” Price said, “and to interject this in a way that appears to have an influence in this election.”
On Monday, the FBI confirmed it is investigating the hacking of the emails, which turned up on the Wikileaks website. N.C. state Sen. Floyd McKissick of Durham, a Clinton delegate, said he finds the hacking to be a larger concern than the content of the emails.
“We really ought to be discussing the potential implications of the Russians trying to impact the American election,” he said.