by Max Brantley
The Arkansas Democratic Party issued an apology today to an Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reporter for making him leave the room Saturday when congressional district-level meetings were underway on national convention delegate selection. The meeting was opened up for at-large voting.
The Democratic Party was sensitive to participation in the events because officials had ruled in advance that John Wolfe, who got a heavy protest vote (42 percent) in the Democratic presidential primary, could qualify for no delegates because of failure to follow party rules, including on meeting delegate selection criteria. He has sued. Only two people registered to be Wolfe delegates and they didn't show up Saturday. Neither did Wolfe.
The statement from the Democratic Party, which won't do much to ease the black eye it suffered from the closed session and widespread news coverage:
“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.
“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.”
Lockwood's account said he was shoved from the room. Martin, who came from some distance away as the contact ended, confirms that, though she said some delegates said they were reacting to Lockwood's resistance to leaving the room on the order of political consultant Debbie Wilhite, who had a role in organizing the meeting. I sent Lockwood a note asking about that assertion, but haven't heard back.
Martin said many uncredentialed Democrats were not allowed in the room from which Lockwood was removed, though the press should have been allowed. District caucus delegates stand to vote. Only credentialed delegates may vote and so all others were excluded. Otherwise, delegates with similar looking credentials from other districts could join a crowd standing for a friend and be hard to detect. Still, Martin said, the rules did not prevent the presence of press, as some had claimed, and she said she'd personally apologized to Lockwood for what had happened. She said by the time party officials had reviewed rules and concluded that press was allowed, the ouster of Lockwood was underway.