Former Vice President Joe Biden’s standing in the polls may have declined precipitously in recent months, but in New York he’s surging—at least among the party faithful.
Primary candidates submitted their delegate slates to state and local election authorities earlier this month, and elected officials and Democratic party leaders are squarely behind Biden. Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have submitted slates with comparable numbers of delegates, but with relatively few Democratic bold-faced names, even from the left wing of the party.
“I’m excited to be a delegate for Joe Biden,” said Assemblywoman Michaelle Solages (D-Valley Stream). “I think he has the track record we need to unify this country and bring it back, and his interests align with my interests as a young millennial, as a mother, as a community organizer.”
Delegate support isn’t just a barometer of establishment acceptance. It also represents an at-the-ready group of leaders who can raise money, knock on doors and organize others to canvass – not only in New York but across the country.
Biden, Sanders, Warren and Pete Buttigieg each have around close to 200 delegates state-wide, with about half of them coming from the metro area. Of those, Biden has about 40 party leaders; Sanders and Warren each have 11; and Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, has four.
Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Senator Amy Klobuchar did not submit slates of named delegates. Whatever delegates they win in New York’s primary on April 28th would have to be named at a later date, before the state party holds its convention in May.
Here are some of the more prominent delegates for the top candidates:
- Biden: Former Congressmen Charles Rangel and Steven Israel; State Senators Leroy Comrie, Monica Martinez, Kevin Thomas
- Sanders: State Senators Michael Gianaris, Jessica Ramos, James Sanders, Julia Salazar; Assemblyman Luis Sepulveda
- Warren: State Senators Alessandra Biaggi, Rachel May and Gustavo Rivera; City Council members Jimmy Van Bramer, Brad Lander and Ben Kallos
- Buttigieg: Assemblywoman Amy Paulin; New Rochelle Mayor Noah Bramson. White Plains Mayor Thomas Roach
While Bloomberg doesn’t have delegates, he has won endorsements from Congressman Gregory Meeks, head of the Queens County Democratic Party, Congresswoman Nita Lowey, from Westchester, and Congressman Max Rose and State Senator Diane Savino, both from Staten Island.
Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has been a vocal supporter of Sanders. She is not a formal delegate at this stage, but like all of the state’s members of Congress, she will later be designated a “superdelegate.” A superdelegate is an unpledged delegate who can choose for themselves which candidate to vote for at the Democratic convention. They comprise about 15% of the total delegate count, and can be pivotal in a contested nomination.
Jay Jacobs, chairman of the state Democratic Party, said having publicly known delegates helps get voters to the polls on primary day.
“People have known Vice President Biden a very long time,” Jacobs said. “He's got deep and strong relationships here in New York.”
Jacobs has not endorsed a candidate. He said he is not sure whether he will before primary day.
At stake in New York is a larger haul of delegates than any state other than California.
“By making our primary a little bit later, it earned us a lot of bonus delegates, which is important,” Jacobs said. “And I think the beauty of it is we get to see how things play out a little bit longer, so we can get a sense of where things might be going [before we have to vote].”
Named delegates can still get selected for the national convention in Milwaukee this summer, even if their candidate drops out before or after the April primary. Candidates need to get 15 percent or more of the vote within individual Congressional districts to win at least some delegate spots–and candidates can still remain on the ballot after formally withdrawing.
“You may have a circumstance where no one candidate has wrapped up a majority of the elected delegates going into the convention,” Jacobs said “If that's the case, then there's going to be a lot of maneuvering [at the national convention]. And these delegates who are pledged to candidates who are no longer in the race, could have a very interesting role to play.”
Although Sanders has been leading in the polls, State Senator James Sanders, from Queens – who isn’t related but likes to joke about his “cousin Bernie” – said he’s not surprised that more of his fellow lawmakers aren’t backing the Brooklyn native and self-proclaimed socialist.
“There are other candidates that they seem to have set their sights with, but that’s okay,” Sanders said of his colleagues. “But I remember when there was this tall fellow from Illinois with a strange sounding name who no one backed early on, and then when he started winning, everybody got on the bandwagon.”