Texas' arcane delegate system suddenly comes into play
The Associated Press
Article Launched: 02/10/2008 12:32:21 PM MST
AUSTINFor the first time in 20 years, Texas will have
a heated presidential primary election next month, a
contest that will bring the state's complex primary
and caucus system into play for Democratic hopefuls
Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama.
"Texas arguably has the most arcane system in the
country," state Rep. Juan Garcia, D-Corpus Christi and
an Obama backer, told the Houston Chronicle in a story
published Sunday. "There are a lot of people
scrambling to get smart on it in a hurry."
The Democratic and Republican primaries in Texas are
March 4. The Clinton-Obama tussle for national
convention delegates is extremely tight, especially
after Obama's victories Saturday in Nebraska,
Washington and Louisiana.
The last time the Texas Democratic convention
delegation was at stake in the midst of a national
fight was 1988. Michael Dukakis won the statewide
primary that year but virtually split delegates evenly
with Jesse Jackson because of the state' unique
Democratic nominating process.
Here's a short version of the party rules, which are
11 pages long.
A total of 126 delegates will be awarded based on the
outcome of the vote in each of the 31 state senatorial
But the number of delegates available in each district
is not equal: Delegates are allocated based on the
votes cast in districts in the 2004 and 2006
presidential and gubernatorial elections.
In the heavily urban, African-American districts of
state Sens. Rodney Ellis of Houston and Royce West of
Dallas, a good voter turnout in the past two elections
means a combined total of 13 delegates are at stake in
the two districts on Election Day.
Obama nationally has been winning eight out of 10 back
voters, according to network exit polls.
But in the heavily Hispanic districts of state Sens.
Juan Hinojosa of McAllen and Eddie Lucio Jr. of
Brownsville, election turnout was low, and a combined
total of seven delegates are at stake.
Clinton has been taking six of 10 Hispanic votes
nationally. So a big South Texas win might not mean as
much for Clinton as a big win for Obama in the two
In 1988, Dukakis won the statewide primary with 33
percent of the vote, followed by Jackson at 25
percent. Al Gore had 20 percent and Richard Gephardt
had 14 percent.
But despite Dukakis' clear plurality victory, he split
the state's delegates almost evenly. Dukakis took 72
delegates, Jackson 67. Forty-four were uncommitted.
"In '88, Jesse Jackson paid attention to the caucus
process and had grass-roots organizers," said Garry
Mauro, a former state land commissioner and Hillary
Clinton supporter. "Dukakis did not pay attention to
the caucus process."
The state's Republican primary is not nearly as
complicated. If the GOP race is still alive between
Sen. John McCain, the front-runner, and former
Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee when the primary arrives,
they will find an equal number of nominating delegates
available in each of the state's 32 congressional
Information from: Houston Chronicle, http://www.chron.com