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Sanders’ delegates from Western New York are in a state of turmoil

PHILADELPHIA – Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ most important backers from Buffalo – his delegates to the Democratic National Convention – heard him Monday afternoon as he asked his supporters nationwide to back Hillary Clinton in her race for president against Republican nominee Donald Trump.

But not all of those local Sanders delegates are listening.

Interviews with a half-dozen Sanders delegates from the Buffalo area revealed as many opinions as there were delegates.

All of them said they were infuriated that leaked emails from the Democratic National Committee showed that party personnel worked to damage the Sanders presidential campaign in hopes of boosting Clinton.

But that was where the agreement ended.

Otherwise, one delegate said she might even campaign for Clinton in the fall election, but others said they weren’t even sure they would vote for her.

The local reaction seemed to be a toned-down, polite version of the reaction inside the Pennsylvania Convention Center on Monday when Sanders told his delegates: “We have got to defeat Donald Trump and we have got to elect Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine.”

Hearing that, a handful in the crowd of about 2,000 cheered. But many more booed.

The Western New Yorkers weren’t thrilled to have to swallow Sanders’ tough medicine, either.

Asked whether he was ready to support Clinton now that Sanders asked him to, the founder of Buffalo for Bernie, Brian Nowak, said simply, “No.”

Asked to elaborate, he said: “The convention hasn’t even started yet.”

Meanwhile, Nina Subramanian, an at-large Sanders delegate from Buffalo, said she remained angry both at the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee. That’s because of the email scandal, and because the ousted DNC chairwoman, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., landed a spot as honorary chairwoman of the Clinton campaign’s effort to help elect Democrats across the country.

Terming that move “more salt in the wound,” Subramanian said she could not say she supports Clinton at this point.

“It would require a radical shift in behavior and structural changes in the DNC,” said Subramanian, who said she would consider voting for the Green Party candidate, Jill Stein, in November.

Similarly, Carol Przybylak, of Sloan, said that she won’t yet say how she will vote in the fall – and that she might even take part in protests among the Sanders delegates on the convention floor. “I’m going to see what everybody else is doing,” she said. “I’ll get the vibe of the room.”

That’s just what Kate Miller, a Sanders delegate from Hamburg, wants to do, too.

“I’ll wait and see what comes up on the convention floor,” she said, adding that at this point she has a clear plan for what to do on Election Day in November.

“Ultimately, I’ll have to vote my conscience,” she said.

For Chuck Hess, a Sanders delegate from Arcade, following his conscience means supporting Clinton in the fall, but he said he would do so reluctantly, and probably would not campaign for her.

“I just still can’t see myself bringing the energy, the enthusiasm I would need to that,” he said.

All of the local delegates stressed that their energy and enthusiasm remains with Sanders, the democratic socialist who waged a surprisingly strong campaign against Clinton, a former first lady, U.S. senator from New York and secretary of state.

In his afternoon speech Monday, Sanders re-energized his supporters even while reiterating his endorsement of Clinton, said Kathryn Regan Eskew, a Sanders delegate from Orchard Park.

“He reaffirmed that it ain’t over yet,” she said. “We are going to continue to fight for the progressive agenda.”

Asked whether that meant working for the Clinton campaign in the fall, Eskew said: “It’s too soon to ask that. But more than likely.”

In urging his supporters to back Clinton, Sanders stressed that Trump is a dangerous alternative.

“Trump is a bully and a demagogue,” he said. “Trump has made bigotry and hatred the cornerstone of his campaign.”

Earlier Monday at a breakfast for the New York State Democratic delegation, Sanders delegates expressed equally varied views as to how they should respond to the fact that the Democratic National Committee had tried to thwart Sanders’ effort.

The Sanders delegates held a makeshift meeting after the full state delegation’s morning breakfast, crowding into a foyer on the 33rd floor of the Loews Philadelphia Hotel because no space had been reserved for the gathering.

Abigail Field, a Sanders delegate from Long Island, presided at the meeting, standing on a radiator near the hotel window. She said delegates would plot a clearer strategy at a closed meeting Tuesday.

Several reporters and photographers joined the meeting on the 33rd floor.

“This makes this an unsafe space to communicate,” Field told the delegates.

But by no means was it the only unsafe space to communicate. At the delegate meeting, Ron Suarez, a delegate from Queens, warned delegates against downloading the DNC convention app onto their smartphones and entering the passwords they would be sent via email.

“I say that,” he noted, “because the DNC does not know how to secure its emails.”

email: jzremski@buffnews.com

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