Monday, May 19, 2008

A (former) Edwards pledged delegate speaks out

WE'VE MOVED! Democratic Convention Watch is now at

We've been following John Edwards' pledged delegates since he endorsed Barack Obama last week. One of those delegates, Rob Groce of South Carolina, was kind enough to answer some questions for us.

Why did you support John Edwards in the first place?

My support for Edwards goes back to 2004. In that election year, I sorted through all the candidates early in the primary season, and found him to be much more specific in declared goals, instead of using many general terms like other candidates did. That made his intentions seem more direct and more organized in comparison. His recognition of “two Americas ” impressed me most. At first I was concerned that Edwards had limited experience in government … but then I realized that could certainly be a needed asset: no ties, no favors owed, no misrepresentation as a result.

My support for Edwards in 2008 was guaranteed, especially since he launched his campaign from the Lower 9th Ward in New Orleans . Three generations of my family lived in that part of my former hometown, I went to high school there, and I was living only five miles from the Lower 9th when Hurricane Katrina struck. I had to relocate following Katrina, most specifically to care for elderly inlaws who need regular healthcare that still isn’t fully available in New Orleans , which is why I wound up here in the 1st Congressional District of South Carolina. After seeing all that Edwards was doing there in support of my former hometown made me want to show my support for him here in my new hometown. I again supported Edwards, and did volunteer work for his campaign, too.
What were your feelings about Barack Obama when Edwards was still running?
I’ve always respected Obama. I thought it was impressive how quickly he made a difference in Congress, and in a non-partisan way, too. He still wasn’t going to take me away from Edwards, though, who solely had all my attention.

I was unsure whether Obama or Clinton was posing the biggest threat to Edwards’ campaign, and because in my opinion (and please let me affirm that I am not a political analyst or political insider), the circle of Edwards supporters overlapped somewhat with the circles of both other candidates’ supporters. He just wasn’t taking enough of those voters away from the competitors into his own circle exclusively, though, in the early primari
es. I remember seeing an online poll (by Democracy for America ) that found Edwards to be the Number 2 selection of both Obama and Clinton supporters, and was wishing that either one would drop out to give Edwards the push needed to take the nomination.
After Edwards left the race?
After Edwards’ suspension, I didn’t have favor for either of the remaining candidates. That’s not out of bitterness or disinterest, but because I was confident that both Obama and Clinton could hold the office with success. The primary had already been held in my state of South Carolina , so I didn’t have to make a formal decision between the two. And I knew that I could support either in the general election this November.

I did, however, get very aggravated with the media’s projection of the remaining primaries, and for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, they overl
ooked Edwards’ voters and votes from those primaries. Following the suspension of his campaign, Edwards took in over 500,000 votes. He obviously still carries a lot of weight, and is still the first choice of many voters, even today. At least most media credited the seven percent he took in the last primary in West Virginia .

Unfortunately, though, I think some media only took the time to point out that seven percent to project a dissatisfaction amongst voters, and continue the media-made appearance of self-defeating division in the Democratic party. That’s my second reason for complaint. Having a close race between Obama and Clinton is a positive attribute, I find. Mainstream media, however, attempt to project that as a negativity, and with implications of strong division between democratic voters. We’ve ha
d multiple quality candidates to choose from, unlike the Republican voters, who had to pick the lesser of seven evils, I think. Because Democratic voters have had a better pool of better candidates means that we’ve taken more and proper time to select from them. And we’ll all be able to cast our vote with good conscience in November as a result.

Before Edwards' endorsement of Obama had you considered voting for Obama or Clinton at the convention, or would you have stuck with Edwards?

If Edwards did not formally release me and his other delegates, I think it would be my obligation to retain my vote for him and him alone. That’s not what I anticipated to happen, though.

I anticipated early on that one candidate would have a majority of the delegates needed prior to the convention, that other candidates would release their delegates with endorsement for the majority winner, and that all delegates would unanimously vote for that one candidate at the convention. Again, I’m no expert on politics, but that’s pretty typical for a party convention, from what I’ve read. I expected Edwards to release us with request that we vote for the pre-ordained winner, and that I would vote for that candidate.

I did not expect Edwards to endorse anyone, though. Still, because I was elected to represent John Edwards at the DNC, I think I’m obligated to honor that endorsement. And I will.

I think his endorsement could be strategic, as well. In my non-political-insider’s opinion, many from the Edwards circle of supporters merged with the Clinton circle after John suspended his campaign. I think that was made more evident in West Virginia , too, which is a state that Edwards had been expected to dominate before he left the race, and which Clinton took decidedly. At this time, however, it’s become apparent that Obama will have the nomination secured before the Democratic National Convention.

In order to be sure that original circle of Edwards’ supporters would vote for Obama in the general election, it was important for Edwards to show his support now and as soon as possible. If he didn’t, I think the media would have continued their portrayal of a divided party, too.
Have you ever been to a Democratic Convention before?
I have never been to a DNC before. Never thought I’d be able to, either, and only get to attend this one on a fluke. South Carolina tries to split its delegates equally between male and female. My 1st district has four total, and the gender was pre-selected by draw in the presence of representatives of each presidential candidate. In that drawing, Obama’s two delegates were split male-female, Clinton ’s was female, and Edwards’ was male.

That drawing alone narrowed it down to me and three other guys. The field was then narrowed down to three, and directly by the candidate representatives, who don’t have to list any reason for removing anyone. When I learned it was down to me and two others, I hit the campaign trail myself. I made a website ( and sent out mail ads, too.

When it came time for the convention, one competitor withdrew the morning of the vote. Adding to my luck, the South Carolina Delegation rules declare that no more than half of all delegates for a district may be from the same county. And two delegates selected before my Edwards’ delegate vote were from Charleston County – the same as my competitor. As a result, this competitor was eliminated, leaving me to be the sole remaining candidate. I won by default, you could say. It’s sad because both were so very entitled to it. The one who withdrew, James Sanderson, is a representative of the Steelworkers Union that endorsed Edwards, introduced Edwards at a union function, and also volunteered with One Corps, I’ve been told. The other, William Tinkler, is a law student who had volunteered extensively with Edwards’ 2004 campaign.
Are you looking forward to it?
Very much! As I hope I’ve made clear, I’m not a political insider. Aside from never missing a vote, I’d never had anything to do with politics. Until right after the 2000 presidential election, that is. I decided that I couldn’t complain about the voting scams and government misrepresentation if I were to just sit back and watch them happen all over again. So I volunteered with the Edwards, and then Kerry-Edwards, campaigns in ’04.

I still believe that this DNC can be historic, and I’m honored to be able to be an active part of it.

There’s a secondary reason or two to look forward to the convention, as well. We South Carolina delegates will be sharing a hotel with delegates from my former home state of Louisiana . I know a few of the folks who’ll be there from LA, at least by name recognition. I do know a few personally, too, and one whom I know from sharing volunteer work with for Kerry-Edwards in ’04. (Deborah Langhoff, a Clinton Delegate.) It seems like an odd, yet synchronized, occurrence – one I can’t pass up.
Have you received a lot of information on Denver and the convention, or just the basics?
So far, just the basics. A lot of the scheduling isn’t complete, from what I understand. The South Carolina Democratic Party hosted an info event for us delegates, but could only include approximations of times and specific events, based on those from previous conventions. The site still doesn’t have many specificities, either.

Basically, the convention will be early afternoon ‘til night (about 2 p.m. to 9 p.m. is expected) on August 24th through 28th, with the Presidential candidate to be formally selected on Wednesday the 27th, and the Vice Presidential candidate to be elected on the next and final day of the convention.
Thanks Rob!


J. Russell said...

Dear Mr. Grace, thank you for your work on behalf of the Democratic Party. I'm sorry to read what you've gone through in the wake of Katrina, and I appreciate the spirit in which you've picked up and moved on.

Thanks also for the transparent explanation of your thinking about your responsibilities as a delegate pledged to John Edwards. I appreciate that.

All the best,