I was downtown Saturday morning with my family eating lunch at Iriana's Pizza. It's Father's Day weekend and my eight-year old son knows this is one of my favorite places to eat. It's closed on Sunday, so we made the trip downtown Saturday.
While there, I noticed a plethora of sharply-dressed people with Obama-Biden stickers on their lapels. This is not something you see everyday, but I remembered that the Democrats were meeting that day to elect their national delegates.
I thought about sticking my head in the door, but with the family in tow, I opted for seeing the Peabody ducks and taking in the anniversary of Arkansas' statehood at the Old State House Museum instead. (That's the way I roll!)
Besides, those delegate elections are usually boring events anyway, right? Apparently, I was wrong.
A report from the Arkansas Democrat Gazette article is quite disturbing in the lengths they went to keep the meeting a secret…
The delegate-selection plan promises that the Arkansas Democratic Party will be “an open party” and that its public meetings “must be held in places [that are] accessible to all Party members and large enough to accommodate all interested persons.”
But organizers restricted access to the convention anyway.
Party activists were present to prevent members of the public or journalists from watching as 31 delegates were elected from Arkansas’ four congressional districts.
An Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reporter on hand to witness the election of delegates from the 2nd Congressional District was ordered out of the room, surrounded by several party members, and shoved toward the exit.
Party Chairman Will Bond upheld the decision to bar observers.
The article also states that the meeting was moved up from 10:00 am to 9:00 am and the doors were locked at 9:30 am with security g
uards posted to keep out any unauthorized persons or those supporting John Wolfe who received about 42 percent of the vote in May 22 primary.
These closed door meetings are a stark contrast to the Republican District Caucuses, which met earlier this month. As I previously reported, supporters of Ron Paul got delegates elected to these District Caucuses and elected their own supporters to be the “Romney delegates” or “stealth delegates” from both the Second and Fourth Districts. Although I am sure party officials would have preferred sending actual Romney supporters as he won the all the pledged delegates in the May 22 primary, they did not prevent the Ron Paul supporters from operating within the rules to elect their own.
The Republican State Committee meets this Saturday morning at 10:00 am in Little Rock to elect the remaining 21 at-large delegates. I am told press will be welcome to attend.
What a stark contrast between the two parties!
UPDATE – Democratic Party of Arkansas spokesperson Candace Martin admitted the mistake and issued an apology.
“In order to maintain the efficiency of the voting process in the district-level delegate voting, guests were removed from the voting rooms to ensure that only those with the proper credentials were allowed to vote on delegates for the congressional district of which they were credentialed to vote,” said Martin.
“However, this rule should not have been applied to members of the media, and we regret this miscommunication. We sincerely apologize to Mr. Lockwood of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Press was brought back to cover the afternoon sessions to see the voting of pledged party leaders, at-large delegates, and alternates, and provided full-access at that time.”