- Associated Press - Saturday, June 18, 2016

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) - The lone Democratic U.S. senator to have endorsed Bernie Sanders told Washington state Democrats on Saturday that they need to unite behind Hillary Clinton in order to defeat Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

“To advance the goals that so resonated in Bernie Sander’s campaign, we need Hillary Clinton to win this election,” Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon told those gathered at the Democratic state convention, as the crowd erupted into boos from the Sanders supporters, mixed with cheers from the smaller Clinton camp.

Merkley said that while Clinton wasn’t his first choice, she’s the nominee.

“It’s not simply about a name. It’s not about just Bernie, and he will tell you that,” Merkley said. In order to address goals like global warming and fighting for the middle class, “we have to come together.”

Natalie Bonanno, a 21-year-old Clinton supporter from Tacoma, said that Merkley’s comments were necessary and welcome.

“The challenge that exists going into the general election is real,” she said. “If we don’t work together and fight together to defeat that, then we’re going to have a serious problem.”

But Sanders supporter Jeremy Vallery-Watson, 27, said he’s not ready to accept Clinton as the nominee and plans to write in Sanders in November.

He said that regardless what happens, he believes that more people are involved in politics now because of Sanders.

“People care and now know how to get involved, which is what Bernie wanted in the first place,” he said.

Sanders supporters at the three-day convention far outnumbered those supporting Clinton.

Attendees spent hours on speeches for the election of two presidential electors who will cast the state’s Electoral College votes for the Democratic nominee in December.

They also passed their party platform Saturday and voted on various party charter amendments and resolutions. One resolution has the state party officially endorsing Sanders, and the conference room broke into loud cheers after the vote. Party officials said before the vote that the motion wouldn’t have any impact beyond being symbolic.

Another resolution that would have had the party officially endorse both Sanders and Clinton failed.

On Sunday, the final day of the convention, state Democrats will elect 34 national delegates and eight alternates to the Democratic National Convention. Sixty-seven delegates were previously elected at the party’s May congressional caucuses.

The selection of delegates is a formality, and the two candidates are awarded delegates proportional to their finish at the Democratic caucuses in March. Sanders, who won the caucuses, will have 74 delegates from Washington state at the national convention in Philadelphia in July. Clinton will have 27. In addition, 17 superdelegates, most of whom have already pledged their support to Clinton, will represent the state at the convention.

Also Saturday, state Democratic party chairman Jaxon Ravens said that next year, party leaders will look into moving away from using the caucus system to allocate delegates to the national convention.

Ravens’ announcement was met by loud cheers when he told hundreds of people gathered at the state party convention that “it’s very clear that we’ve outgrown the precinct caucus process.”

He said that while the party is committed to maintaining opportunities for voters to talk with their neighbors about issues that they care about, they will form a subcommittee to explore a different process to officially allocate delegates.

“We have not outgrown our need and our desire to talk to our neighbors about the values that we care about,” he said. “We have not outgrown the right and interest in sitting down with people and talking about where we are and where we want to be as a country as a state.”

Currently, Democrats only use the precinct caucuses to allocate their delegates. This year, Republicans used the statewide presidential primary, which was won by Trump and Clinton in May.

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