Georgia Democratic chair fends off Bernie Sanders challenger

Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton at a 2015 debate. (AP Photo/John Locher)

Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton at a 2015 debate. (AP Photo/John Locher)

An obscure vote for chair of Georgia’s 117 member delegation to the party’s convention next month turned into a proxy battle between supporters of Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.

Dozens of delegates gathered Saturday afternoon to choose between Democratic Party of Georgia chair DuBose Porter, a longtime Clinton supporter, and Julie Kisaka, a Sanders delegate and newcomer to state politics. (Ex-Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin’s name was also mooted and quickly withdrawn.)

Porter won the contest to formally lead the delegation by about two-thirds of the vote, but Sanders’ camp said it was telling that they managed to persuade a handful of Clinton delegates to vote for Kisaka. Clinton clinched the nomination this month, though Sanders has not yet conceded the fight.

DuBose Porter, chairman of the Democratic Party of Georgia. AJC file

DuBose Porter is chairman of the Democratic Party of Georgia. AJC file

State Sen. Vincent Fort, who has become an increasingly outspoken critic of his party as he prepares for a likely run for Atlanta mayor, cast Saturday’s vote as a battle between “progressives against conservatives” led by a contingent of younger black delegates.

“It was African-American delegates concerned about a lack of diversity, a lack of transparency and a lack of openness in the Georgia Democratic Party,” he said. “For it to be that close, it shows a deep lack of confidence among the rank and file regarding DuBose Porter and the party establishment.”

Clinton supporters bristled at Fort’s claim. State Rep. Calvin Smyre, who co-chairs Clinton’s campaign in Georgia, said the challenge to Porter was “unfortunate” and called on his party to unite behind the former secretary of state to defeat Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump.

“We’re trying to win the November election and we can’t be stuck on the past. We have to move forward and move past all that,” said Smyre, a former head of the National Black Caucus of State Legislators. “We have to keep our eye on the prize. We’re trying to get Georgia in play and keep it on the radar. And to do that, we have to work together.”


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