WV delegation at DNC votes for Clinton over Sanders by 1

The delegates from West Virginia cast their votes for president of the United States during Tuesday’s second day of the Democratic National Convention, in Philadelphia. Belinda Biafore, the chairwoman of the West Virginia Democratic Party, read off the state’s delegate tally — 19 for Hillary Clinton, 18 for Bernie Sanders.

Sen. Bernie Sanders won the Democratic primary in the state of West Virginia handily.

But when it came time for West Virginia to cast its 37 electoral votes at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia on Tuesday, the state went to Clinton: 19 delegates were for the nominee and 18 delegates for Sanders.

What gives?

If West Virginia’s vote were based purely on the primary election, Sanders would have won with 18 delegates to Clinton’s 11. But that’s before factoring in superdelegates.

All eight of West Virginia’s superdelegates, party leaders who are not bound by the popular vote, voted for Clinton.

“I think the complaints about the superdelegates having too much power are true,” said state Sen. Jeff Kessler, D-Marshall, and a Sanders delegate to the national convention.

Kessler said that while he watched the roll call vote, he was surprised by how many states — states that Sanders had won in the primary — ended up having more Clinton delegates than Sanders delegates.

“The votes during the roll call were not reflective of how he did,” said Kessler, who spoke at Sanders rallies in Huntington and Morgantown.

Belinda Biafore, the chairwoman of the West Virginia Democratic Party, said a lot of the superdelegates voted for Clinton because of Bernie Sanders’ endorsement of Hillary Clinton.

“Once you get here, once you get in the briefings, once you get the emails from Bernie Sanders,” Biafore said, “he was all about endorsing Hillary Clinton.”

Sanders did endorse Clinton, but he also asked his delegates to vote for him during the roll call vote.

Sanders’ endorsement of Clinton led to a switch for at least one West Virginia superdelegate — Elaine Harris. Harris was originally backing Sanders because her union, the Communications Workers of America, endorsed him. Once the union switched over to Clinton, it allowed Harris to switch.

Sanders would have had another superdelegate in Chris Regan, the former vice chairman of the state Democratic Party.

During the executive meeting at the West Virginia Democratic Convention, Regan ran for chairman of the party and narrowly lost.

When Regan chose not to run for vice chairman, he was replaced by Sen. Bill Laird, D-Fayette, who is a Clinton supporter.

Those two votes tipped the balance for West Virginia.

Sanders supporters have questioned the role of superdelegates throughout the Democratic primary and helped pass a platform that would reduce the number of superdelegates.

Biafore said she can understand changing the superdelegate process, but she does not support eliminating them outright.

“Sometimes, the volunteers don’t see the whole picture,” Biafore said. “They just see their side.”

While Kessler was surprised that Sanders didn’t win more states during the roll call, he did say he plans to support Clinton in the general election, a position, he says, a majority of Sanders supporters share.

“I learned a long time ago, in politics, you can’t get them all,” Kessler said when asked about the “Bernie or Bust” movement.

According to Kachina Mooney, a Sanders delegate at the convention, West Virginia still has about eight “Bernie or Bust” delegates. They are among the Sanders delegates who walked out of the convention in protest after the roll call vote.

On Mooney’s Facebook page, she challenged West Virginia’s final delegate count, saying, because Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and Sen. Joe Manchin weren’t in attendance, their votes couldn’t count.

Biafore said Tomblin was in attendance by the time West Virginia voted and Manchin was replaced by an alternate for the vote.

She added that some of the Sanders supporters have begun to back Clinton, saying one Sanders delegate showed up in a Clinton shirt Wednesday.

“I was in their shoes in 2008,” Biafore said. “I wanted Hillary Clinton. But when it was over and done with, I was knocking on doors for Barack Obama.”

Reach Daniel Desrochers at dan.desrochers@wvgazettemail.com, 304-348-4886 or follow @drdesrochers on Twitter.