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Missouri's newly elected Sanders, Clinton delegates highlight different objectives

Democrats gather at the 1st Congressional Caucus.
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio
Democrats gather at the 1st Congressional Caucus.

Missouri Democrats have turned to a mix of party veterans and newcomers to fill the first wave of delegate spots for this summer’s presidential convention.

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill’s sister, Anne McCaskill Moroh, is among the 47 Democratic delegates elected Thursday night at eight congressional conventions held around the state, including three in the St. Louis area. The delegates also include three St. Louis aldermen: Antonio French, D-21st Ward, Jack Coatar, D-7th, and Megan Green, D-15th Ward. Other delegates include Sanders backer Jabari Allen, a 24-year-old political newcomer who works for a home-security startup, and John Burroughs history teacher James Wagner.

All told, six were chosen at the 2nd congressional district convention, held in the theater at Parkway South High School. The competition was stiff, with the victors beating out a couple dozen rivals.

Ten were elected during the 1st District's three-hour session held in a sweltering classroom at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. That’s the largest bloc of Democratic delegates in the state, since the 1st District is arguably the most Democratic congressional seat. The number awarded each district was based on a formula that centered on Democratic turnout in the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections.

Anne Moroh, whose sister is Democratic U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, will go to Philadelphia as a Clinton delegate.
Credit Jo Mannies | St. Louis Public Radio
Anne Moroh, whose sister is Democratic U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, will go to Philadelphia as a Clinton delegate.

Of the delegates elected Thursday, 24 will be committed on the first ballot to Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders, and 23 to Hillary Clinton, who narrowly carried the state in the March 13 primary and is the frontrunner.

Another 37 Democratic delegates – for a statewide total of 84 – will be chosen at the party’s state convention June 18, or are party leaders known as “superdelegates’’ who can support whom they choose. Overall, Clinton will end up with a slight majority of Missouri's delegates headed to the national convention in Philadelphia in late July.

St. Louis Alderman Megan Green and fellow Sanders delegate Natalie Vowell were selected from the 1st congressional district.
Credit Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio
St. Louis Alderman Megan Green and fellow Sanders delegate Natalie Vowell were selected from the 1st congressional district.

Moroh, who fills a committed Clinton spot, sees her delegate job as two-fold: “Not just supporting Hillary Clinton as the next president, but to be able to be another voice for Missouri and this region.”

Moroh noted that although she's accompanied her sister to various political events, she's never before been an elected Democratic delegate.

Wagner, the Burroughs history teacher, has another objective. “In Philadelphia, I’m going to stand up for Bernie’s platform and try and move the party in that direction. I think we’re fighting for the heart and soul of the Democratic Party.”

Ferguson on the minds of some delegates

French, one of the aldermen now a delegate, had worked as a paid staffer for Clinton's campaign leading up the March primary.  It will be his first time going to a presidential convention as a delegate.

Credit Jason Rosenbaum/St. Louis Public Radio
Antonio French addressing Democrats at congressional convention.

“I worked very hard on the Clinton campaign,” French said. “It’s one thing to bring a very slight victory in the state of Missouri. That was a close contest. But to be able to see this thing through and go to the convention and represent Missouri – and to be elected by the good folks here – I think it’s an honor.”

Green, one of French’s aldermanic counterparts, was selected as a Sanders delegate alongside Natalie Vowell. Both women say Sanders -- even if he doesn't win the nomination -- can play a big role at the Democratic convention, especially since he’ll be bringing a large amount of delegates with him.

“I think as Bernie delegates, we’re really in a position of power no matter what happens,” Green said. “The Democratic Party needs us. And they know that they need us. And so, that means that they’ve got to come to us in terms of getting all of this corrupt money out of politics, changing our campaign finance system, advocating for a national $15 minimum and really adopt Sanders’ platform.”

Credit Jo Mannies/St. Louis Public Radio
Jabari Allen displays his joy after winning election as a Democratic presidential delegate

Vowell added that the presence of Sanders’ supporters has “really pushed the establishment to the left a little bit more.”

“And I think we need to continue pushing until we get the things that are representative of people,” Vowell said. “The money out of politics, fair working wage, equality, Black Lives Matter, LGBT rights. Everything that Bernie Sanders is standing for, Hillary Clinton is going to have to stand for now if she wants to continue.”

GOP's selection process could be tense

Republicans will elect their first bloc of presidential delegates on Saturday, with their own series of congressional district conventions. And those GOP gatherings are expected to be more spirited.

Even though Donald Trump won Missouri's Republican primary, rival Ted Cruz is attempting to get as many of his supporters as possible elected as Trump delegates. Cruz's aim is to have those delegates defect to him, should Trump fail to win the nomination on the first ballot, when the GOP convention is held this summer in Cleveland.

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.
Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.