Texas Democratic Party braces for Clinton lawsuit
Posted on Fri, Feb. 29, 2008
State's Democratic Party braces for lawsuit
By JAY ROOTStar-Telegram Staff Writer
AUSTIN -- The Texas Democratic Party is warning that
its primary night caucuses could be delayed or
disrupted after aides to White House hopeful Hillary
Clinton raised the specter of an "imminent" lawsuit
over its complicated delegate selection process,
officials said Thursday night.
In a letter sent late Thursday to both the Clinton and
Barack Obama campaigns, Texas Democratic Party
attorney Chad Dunn warned that a lawsuit could ruin
the Democrats' effort to re-energize voters just as
they are turning out in record numbers.
Spokesmen from both campaigns maintained that there
were no plans to sue before the primary on Tuesday.
"It has been brought to my attention that one or both
of your campaigns may already be planning or intending
to pursue litigation against the Texas Democratic
Party," Dunn said in the letter, obtained by the
Star-Telegram. "Such action could prove to be a
tragedy for a reinvigorated Democratic process."
Democratic Party sources who asked not to be
identified because of the potential for litigation
said that representatives from both campaigns had made
it clear they are keeping all their options open but
that the Clinton campaign in particular had warned of
an impending lawsuit.
"Both campaigns have made it clear that they would go
there if they had to, but I think the imminent threat
is coming from one campaign," said one top Democratic
official, referring to the Clinton campaign. The
official spoke on condition of anonymity.
Another Democratic source who was privy to the often
intense discussions confirmed that representatives of
the New York senator's campaign had issued veiled
threats in a telephone call this week.
"Officials from Sen. Clinton's campaign at several
times throughout the call raised the specter of
'challenging the process,'" the official said. "The
call consisted of representatives from both campaigns
and the Democratic Party."
The source, who was not authorized to speak about the
matter on the record, said Clinton's political
director, Guy Cecil, had pointedly raised the
possibility of a courtroom battle.
But Adrienne Elrod, Clinton's top Texas spokeswoman,
said that campaign and party officials had merely
discussed primary night procedures and that the
campaign was seeking a written agreement in advance.
She could not elaborate on the details of the
agreement the Clinton campaign is seeking. "It is our
campaign's standard operating procedure that we need
to see what we are agreeing to in writing before we
agree to it," Elrod said. "No legal action is being
taken. We have no reason to take any legal action."
Obama spokesman Josh Earnest said the campaign had no
plans to sue.
"We're confident that by working closely with the
Texas Democratic Party and the Clinton campaign we'll
have a caucus that Texans can be proud of -- because
every eligible voter will be allowed to participate
and have their vote counted in a timely manner,"
The letter to the two campaigns did not specify what
procedures or rules might trigger a lawsuit. But one
party official said the campaigns were most concerned
about the caucus process, or, as the party refers to
it, the "precinct conventions." Texas has 228
delegates, the biggest single cache remaining.
But only 126 delegates are doled out based on the
selection voters make at the ballot box. Sixty-seven
delegates -- more than many states' entire share --
are to be apportioned based on the number of people
who participate in the caucuses that begin in over
8,000 precincts once the polls close at 7 p.m.
The remaining 35 are so-called superdelegates,
high-ranking party officials free to support whomever
they choose and can switch votes when they wish.
Every delegate counts
The intense competition between Obama and Clinton has
made every delegate a precious commodity. In past
years, the caucuses generated little attention or
interest. Now, questions are being raised about
procedures, whether there's enough space to
accommodate participants and how the results will be
recorded and reported. Democrats have described the
enthusiasm in Texas, as evidenced by the record
turnout among early voters in the most populous
counties, as a sign that the party is undergoing a
revival after years of decline under virtually
unchallenged Republican rule.
Dunn, the Democratic Party attorney, said it could all
be for naught if the Texas nomination battle winds up
We need to see what we are agreeing to in writing
before we agree to it. No legal action is being taken.
We have no reason to take any legal action.
JAY ROOT REPORTS FROM THE STAR- TELEGRAM'S AUSTIN