HONOLULU (AP) - U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders has picked up a superdelegate vote in Hawaii, but he still faces a steep uphill battle in his quest to overtake Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination.
The state Democratic Party elected Sanders supporter Tim Vandeveer to serve as party chairman. Vandeveer said Tuesday he plans to vote for Sanders at the Democratic National Convention in July.
It takes 2,383 delegates to win the nomination. Clinton has 2,312 delegate votes so far, according to an Associated Press count. Sanders has 1,545 delegates so far. The count includes those who are pledged based on how states voted and the superdelegates who can vote however they’d like.
Despite the numbers, Vandeveer believes Sanders has a chance to win.
“Between pledged and superdelegates, you never know,” said Vandeveer. “Superdelegates could change their votes.”
Sanders took 70 percent of the vote in Hawaii’s Democratic caucus in March, while Clinton captured 30 percent.
Sanders’ message resonated in Hawaii in part because his policies deal with addressing the gap between the wealthy and the working poor, Vandeveer said.
“It’s more acute here than anywhere,” Vandeveer said. “People are having a harder time, I think, in Hawaii finding an affordable place to live, and keeping a job where they’re making a living wage.”
Vandeveer replaces outgoing party chairwoman Stephanie Ohigashi, who until now remained neutral in the race. Since she’s no longer leading the party, Ohigashi plans to campaign for Clinton on the neighbor islands, she said.
“We know her personally so it’s easy to talk with her about the needs of Hawaii, especially education and land issues, and security,” Ohigashi said.
Hawaii will send 35 delegates to the national convention to choose the party’s presidential candidate. Twenty-five of Hawaii’s delegates will be allocated based the caucus vote, while 10 superdelegates will get to vote however they choose.
Six of Hawaii’s superdelegates have said they’re supporting Clinton. Two are supporting Sanders, including U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard. Gov. David Ige and Lt. Gov. Shan Tsutsui have not yet announced how they plan to vote.
Vandeveer, a law student and former union shop leader, was elected chairman of party at the state convention Sunday. The party also passed a resolution calling on the national party to abolish the superdelegate system, reflecting growing dissatisfaction with the presidential selection process nationwide.
“In a state like Hawaii where you had 70 percent of the state break for Sen. Sanders, that’s a pretty clear mandate,” Vandeveer said. “To make a deal a year before the caucus to support a candidate I think is a disservice.”
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