After Sanders’ Colorado Win, Could His Supporters Here Vote For Clinton?

April 17, 2016
Photo: Democratic Colorado Convention (STAFF)
At the state Democratic convention Saturday, many Sanders backers were vocal in their support.

Eleanor Jefferson is a proud Bernie Sanders supporter. She lives in Lakewood now, but she has roots in Brooklyn, New York, where Sanders was born.

“My father would never have believed that a Jewish man could have ever run for president," she said. “I hope he’s looking down and smiling right now.”

Jefferson finds Sanders exciting and says his honesty is refreshing. She likes Hillary Clinton too – and she’d support Clinton if she wins the nomination. But she worries that some Sanders supporters won’t.

Jefferson’s concerns were shared by many at Saturday’s state Democratic Convention in Loveland. Sanders performed well at the convention and will take more Colorado delegates to this summer’s national nominating convention than Clinton.

But Sanders still trails Clinton in delegate totals nationally. And he faces an uphill climb to earn enough delegates to secure the nomination before the Democrats’ convention in Philadelphia.

Sanders supporters are a passionate lot – but will they embrace Clinton if she is the nominee?

“I hope they will stay with the party because the party needs an infusion of new ideas and young people have those new ideas,” Jefferson said.

Photo: Colorado Dem Convention Bernie Supporter Hands Flyers
Marisa Williams of Loveland hands out flyers in support of Bernie Sanders at Saturday's state Democratic Convention.

Marisa Williams of Loveland adores Bernie Sanders. But her enthusiasm doesn’t extend to Clinton. Would she support Clinton as the nominee?

“That’s a tough question,” Williams said. “Because if we have Trump in office he’s going to destroy the world, you know. But, so will Hillary. I don’t really like her – at all.”

That sentiment was common at Saturday’s convention, where Sanders supporters often interrupted speeches by Clinton backers.

When former Sen. Ken Salazar spoke, Sanders loyalists chanted “SuperPAC” – a reference to outside money that’s helping fund Clinton’s campaign.

Sen. Michael Bennet had an even harder time at the podium. He’s a superdelegate and he plans to support Clinton at this summer’s national Democratic convention – even though the majority of Colorado democrats voted for Sanders at last month’s caucuses.

Bennet at times struggled to speak over Sanders supporters’ chanting, “Change your vote!”

But elected officials like Bennet and Salazar know the party will need Sanders supporters if Clinton becomes the nominee. And they made it a point to praise Sanders and his fervent supporters while calling for Democratic unity.

State Rep. Joe Salazar isn’t ready to talk about unity yet. He and Ken Salazar share common family lineage, having roots in Colorado’s San Luis Valley. But they do not share support for presidential candidates.

Joe Salazar backs Sanders, and he says if Clinton is the nominee, she won’t get his support until she releases transcripts of her paid speeches to Wall Street businesses. He insists that’s a fair demand.

“I won’t have anybody criticizing me because I want to enter the presidential election cycle with my eyes wide open,” Salazar said.

But other Democrats aren’t worried about a divide -- because they are confident the party will unite behind the eventual nominee. Denver Mayor Michael Hancock is a Clinton supporter. He says what’s happening in the Democratic Party pales in comparison to the vitriol on the Republican side.

“The Democrats are certainly much more unified than the Republican Party right now,” said Hancock. “This is a natural tension that occurs when there’s competition going on. But at the end of the day, I believe the Democrats will come together and Democrats will ultimately be the ones to unify this nation come November.”

In the end, the Republican nominee may be the true uniting force for the Democrats.

Crested Butte resident Maggie Chlipala, 25, hopes Sanders will become the Democratic Party choice.

“But if the country’s not ready for that, they’re definitely not ready for Donald Trump or Ted Cruz," she said. "That is ridiculous … and I can’t… that is not good. We can’t have that.”