Dems to pick convention delegates on Saturday

Party volunteers sign in delegates at the South Carolina Democratic Party convention two years ago in Columbia. South Carolina Democrats will gather for their annual state convention Saturday.

COLUMBIA — South Carolina Democrats will gather for their annual state convention Saturday to select the individuals who will represent them as delegates to nominate a president in Philadelphia in July.

Throughout the day, voting will be held to choose the 59 delegates and four alternates for the Democratic National Convention. There are 179 Democrats vying to be a delegate, with 22 of those coming from Charleston County.

“What came out of the primary is the total number of delegates that each (candidate) would receive,” S.C. Democratic Party Executive Director Jason Perkey said. “The elections are putting people with those numbers.”

All but six delegates who will appear at the national convention are automatically bound to support either former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton or Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, according to the results of the Feb. 27 primary. The numbers mean that 39 delegates and three alternates will go to backing Clinton, while 14 delegates and one alternate will go for Sanders.

There are six “unpledged” delegates, also called superdelegates, as well. They are classified as party leaders and other elected officials, or “PLEOs.” Those delegates, which include members of the Democratic National Committee, U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., and other “distinguished party leaders,” such as the state party chairman, can support whomever they wish.

State party Chairman Jamie Harrison and Clyburn both have said they will support Clinton, who trounced Sanders in South Carolina with nearly 73 percent of the vote.

Harrison was one of seven Southern Democratic Party leaders to write a letter this week to formally condemn Sanders’ characterization of the region’s voters as not being as progressive as his supporters in more “liberal” parts of the country.

Clyburn endorsed Clinton about a week before the election.

The day-long state convention will consist of four votes, Perkey said. Saturday morning, Democrats will elect 35 delegates from all seven of the state’s congressional districts who support either Clinton or Sanders.

In the afternoon, seven “pledged” PLEO delegates will be elected. Pledged PLEOs can be the Democratic mayors of Greenville, Columbia or Charleston or a state legislator or a state, county or local elected official, or a party officer.

The third vote will be for 11 at-large delegates. The final vote will be for three people — at least one man and one woman — to represent the state on the Democratic National Committee beginning next year.

The festivities begin at 6 p.m. Friday night with Clyburn’s “world famous” fish fry at the Cannon parking garage in downtown Columbia. The convention begins at 9 a.m. Saturday at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center.

The convention also will feature remarks from U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Tom Perez.

Reach Maya T. Prabhu at 843-509-8933.