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“Highly Inappropriate”: Sanders Backer Slams AP, NBC for Calling Democratic Race Before Today’s Vote

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On the eve of the California primary and six other contests, the Associated Press and NBC News shook up the Democratic race for the White House last night by announcing Hillary Clinton had reached the number of delegates needed to capture the nomination, beating challenger Bernie Sanders. Both news organizations reached that conclusion based on unofficial polls of unelected superdelegates. If the projections stand, Clinton would become the first woman to ever be the presidential candidate of a major political party in U.S. history. Sanders criticized the move. “According to the Democratic National Committee, what they should not be doing is lumping pledged delegates, i.e. real delegates, with superdelegates, who may or may not change their mind, but who do not vote until July 25th,” Sanders said. We host a debate between Kevin de León, president pro-tem of the California Senate, and Los Angeles city councilmember and former California state legislator Gil Cedillo, who has been campaigning with Bernie Sanders.

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Transcript
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: On the eve of the California primary and five other contests, the Associated Press and NBC News shook up the race for the White House last night by announcing Hillary Clinton had clinched the Democratic nomination, defeating challenger Bernie Sanders. Both news organizations reached that conclusion based on unofficial polls of unelected superdelegates. For months, the Democratic National Committee has urged the media not to report superdelegate tallies until next month’s convention in Philadelphia. If the projections stand, Hillary Clinton would become the first woman to ever be the presidential candidate of a major political party in U.S. history. She spoke at a rally last night in Long Beach, California.

HILLARY CLINTON: According to the news, we are on the brink of a historic, historic, unprecedented moment. But we still have work to do, don’t we? We have six elections tomorrow, and we’re going to fight hard for every single vote, especially right here in California.

AMY GOODMAN: The Sanders campaign dismissed the news, saying superdelegates should not be counted until they actually vote at the Philadelphia convention. Unlike pledged delegates, superdelegates can switch their support at any time. Bernie Sanders spoke last night to reporters after the AP and NBC called the race.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: According to the Democratic National Committee, what they should not be doing is lumping pledged delegates, i.e. real delegates, with superdelegates, who may or may not change their mind, but who do not vote until July 25th. So if everybody knows exactly how all the superdelegates are going to vote on July 25th, that’s great for them, but I don’t know that. The point is that tomorrow in California we have the most important primary. The people of California have the right to determine who is going to be president of the United States, not necessarily having to listen to AP or NBC. And I hope that they will come out in large numbers and make it clear that they want real change in this country, that they’re tired of establishment politics and establishment economics, and that they want a government that represents all of us and not just the 1 percent.

AMY GOODMAN: Bernie Sanders has largely staked his campaign on a victory today in California, the largest state in the union. In recent weeks he has held dozens of campaign events, including a large free concert last night in San Francisco. And it’s not just voters in California heading to the polls today. Primaries and caucuses are also being held in Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico and North and South Dakota. The Sanders campaign has been hoping victories in California and other states could help convince superdelegates he would be the superior candidate to challenge Donald Trump.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: It’s going to be very difficult. I’m not here to deny that for a second. But the case we’re going to make to the superdelegates is, everybody at the Democratic National Convention is going to want to defeat Donald Trump, for good reasons. He is a disaster and must not become president of the United States. Well, you know what? According to every national poll that I have seen and according to virtually every state poll that I have seen, Bernie Sanders is a much stronger candidate against Donald Trump than is Hillary Clinton.

AMY GOODMAN: According to The New York Times, President Obama is planning to officially endorse Hillary Clinton as early as this week and then begin publicly campaigning for her.

To talk more about these developments and today’s primary in California, we’re going to Los Angeles, where we’re joined by two guests. Kevin de León is president pro-tem of the California state Senate. He spoke last night at Hillary Clinton’s rally at Long Beach City College. Also with us is Los Angeles city councilmember and former California state legislator Gil Cedillo, who has been campaigning with Bernie Sanders.

We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Let’s start with Kevin de León. Your response to the news that AP and NBC News have called Hillary Clinton as the winner, the presumptive Democratic nominee.

SEN. KEVIN DE LEÓN: Well, good morning, Amy, and good morning to everyone on the East Coast. I think it’s fantastic news. It’s great news. But the reality is, it’s much too early to call. We have major races throughout the country. We still have six major primaries and two major rich delegate states, which is New Jersey and here back home in California. We believe that tonight Secretary Hillary Clinton will secure the nomination. She has the vast majority of the pledged votes. She has a vast majority of the raw popular votes throughout the country. She has won 21 out of 23 rich vote—numbers in votes states throughout the country, high populations. We feel very confident that tonight she will wrap it up.

AMY GOODMAN: Gil Cedillo, your response to this news, announced on the eve of these major primaries, six in all—California, the largest state—that in fact it’s Hillary Clinton who’s the presumptive Democratic nominee?

COUNCILMEMBER GIL CEDILLO: Well, it’s highly inappropriate for this news agency to try to announce and determine the outcome of elections that have yet to happen. It’s just wholly inappropriate. It’s a form of voter suppression. As the senator indicated, we have six important races to take place. Every vote counts. Every vote should count. And it’s just wholly inappropriate for this agency to try to determine the outcome of an election. It’s voter suppression in the most rank and raw form. What’s next? A literacy test or a poll tax? This is not something that a legitimate news agency should be involved with.

AMY GOODMAN: Explain what you mean by voter suppression.

COUNCILMEMBER GIL CEDILLO: Well, if you tell someone the election’s over, then people don’t think that they should go and vote. It’s demoralizing. It’s a misrepresentation. And it has a capacity, a potential, to impact the outcome. The fact of the matter is, as the senator indicated, we have important elections today from two of the most important states. Californians are geared up and getting ready to go out to vote this morning. And we want them to know and feel that their vote counts. This goes beyond politics. This is about protecting the right to vote. There are young men and women throughout the world who are prepared to put their lives on the line to defend that right to vote, and it’s just inappropriate for a news agency to try to suppress that vote, whether it’s in California, New Jersey or any of the other states that have elections today.

AMY GOODMAN: California state Senate President Kevin de León, do you agree that this will lead to voter suppression?

SEN. KEVIN DE LEÓN: Well, you know, Gil Cedillo and I are very good friends. He is my city councilmember, I am his state senator. We’re both progressives who have been in the trenches for many decades, doing everything possible to help improve the human condition, especially for those who are the most marginalized and vulnerable.

The “voter suppression” is obviously a very strong word, much too strong. I think the media outlets—in this case AP, as well as NBC—have made a projection based on quantitative research of the pledged delegates, and the pledged delegates have indicated very clearly that they’re going to be with Hillary Clinton. So the projection is clear, because what is black and white is the math. And it’s simple math. One plus one is two, it is not three. So all you have to do is the math, and we feel very confident that tonight that Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee for the presidency of the United States.

But what’s most important is that we unite very quickly against the most dangerous man in modern political history, which is Donald Trump. This is an individual who has been very clear with regards to his own xenophobic views against immigrants, people of color, women, as well as Muslims. So, number one, we need to unite earlier rather than later. And it’s very clear mathematically that the numbers are there: Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee for the presidency of the United States.

AMY GOODMAN: Gil Cedillo, it’s the math. Your response?

COUNCILMEMBER GIL CEDILLO: Yes, well, the senator knows, because he’s one of our premier leaders of the state of California, but he should have been the assemblymember, the speaker of our state Assembly in the lower house. He once had the votes. They were projected. He was set to be the speaker of the state Assembly, and one of his votes flipped and took a few other votes with him. And as it turned out, we know history tells us that those projected votes didn’t come in. They didn’t happen when the election day came. The projections didn’t bear out, and he never became the speaker of the lower house. Fortunately for us in California, he went on to the Senate and became the president pro-tem. We have the virtue of his leadership. But he knows that until the election day and until votes are cast, you can’t count them until they’re cast. One vote, one person, one day of elections.

SEN. KEVIN DE LEÓN: And I would say, Amy, that—and today I am the president of the California state Senate, the first Latino in over 133 years. But again, math is math. And it’s about persuasion. And if you’re not able to persuade any of the superdelegates—and to date, I have not seen any one individual superdelegate be persuaded yet to leave Hillary Clinton and go and support Bernie Sanders. Persuasion is critical, and I have yet to see anyone persuade any other superdelegate.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to turn—

SEN. KEVIN DE LEÓN: Again, let me be very clear: Math is math. One plus one is two, it is not three. And we feel very confident that Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee tonight. Now, that being said, let me be very clear, because I’ve spent a lot of time with Hillary Clinton in California up and down the state of California—

AMY GOODMAN: You were with her last night, right?

SEN. KEVIN DE LEÓN: She is fighting for every single vote, especially in the African-American and Latino communities. I spent a considerable amount of time with her in Boyle Heights and Pico-Union and El Sereno and East Los Angeles, in Long Beach last night. And she’s fighting for every single vote, because she’s not going to take anything for granted at all whatsoever. She’s here. She’s spent a considerable amount of time in California. But again, cooler heads prevail. Tonight is a major election throughout the country, but especially in New Jersey and here at home in California. We do believe strongly she will be the nominee for the Democratic presidency.

AMY GOODMAN: I want—I want to turn to DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz appearing on MSNBC in February, talking about superdelegates.

DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: And it’s just—I’m glad you’re asking me about this, because the way the media has been reporting this is incorrect. There aren’t pledged delegates, i.e. superdelegates, earned at any of these primary or caucus contests, Rachel. Those unpledged delegates are elected officials, party leaders, people who have spent years and years in the Democratic Party; members of Congress, our DNC members are superdelegates. And they have the ability to decide who they choose to support at the convention at any point. So they are not actually—whatever they’re saying now, I mean, most of them, presumably, would remain committed to who they’ve committed to now, but they haven’t all committed to a candidate. And they’re really free to decide all the way up into July.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s interesting. That’s DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, certainly no favorite of Bernie Sanders. In fact, he’s endorsed [her] opponent in her congressional race in Florida. A final word on this, Gil Cedillo? And then we’re going to talk about the larger issues in California.

COUNCILMEMBER GIL CEDILLO: Well, she’s absolutely right. The election day for the superdelegates is at the convention. They won’t be counted until then. We would like to have an unencumbered, unbiased election here today in California and New Jersey, the other four states. It’s very important that we—two things: one, that we’re united in the fall to defeat Donald Trump; two, that we have our best candidate forward, that person who’s most prepared, most able, most capable of defeating Donald Trump. And we can’t determine that until we have an election, an unencumbered, unbiased election here in California and the other five states that are going to take place today.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to go to a break, then come back to talk about the issues in California, Gil Cedillo, Los Angeles city councilmember, and Kevin de León, president pro-tem of the California state Senate. This is Democracy Now! We’ll be back with them in a minute.

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