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Court Suit May Determine Nevada Outcome

Posted on 1/18/2008 2:44:00 PM

A court suit initiated by Hillary Clinton's supporters may change the outcome of the Democratic presidential caucuses on January 19, 2008. Three leading Democratic candidates, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Barack Obama, and John Edwards are tied in a close battle before the caucuses to be held in Nevada.

Nevada is known for its diverse electorate. It has a good population of Hispanic voters, as also union and urban voters. The results in the caucuses would therefore provide a pointer to the race up ahead. It may be noted that, Republican candidates have chosen to remain away from the caucuses.

In fact, no leading Republican leader has been known to visit the state for the last couple of months. There is, however, some speculation that Ron Paul may turn up for a first-place showing. The Texas Representative is, incidentally, the only one from the Republican candidates who has aired ads on TV in Nevada.

The issue in a court hearing is about whether the Democratic caucuses would be conducted in nine casinos located on the Las Vegas Strip. These locations were specially chosen to enable employees such as waiters and bellhops, employed in the casinos, to participate in the caucus at midday close to their workplace. These rules had the sanction of the state Democratic party and were later ratified by the Democratic National Committee (DNC).

However, on January 11, six Democrats and a teachers union, which has been linked to Hillary Clinton, went to court to shut the sites. The law suit alleged that they were allocated to too many delegates from one group. From 10,000 delegates to Nevada's presidential nominating convention, over 700 could be chosen at the casino caucuses. This would mean that the casino sites would be more valuable than other Nevada counties that were thinly populated. Four of the plaintiffs are serving on the committee that agreed on the casino sites. The DNC also petitioned to support the suit in favor of state party.

While Clinton's campaign refused to acknowledge that it was involved, Barack Obama pointed out that the suit was initiated only two days before his endorsement from Culinary Workers Union Local 226. The Union, which has a strong presence in the region, is the largest in Nevada. Over 40 percent of its 60,000 strong membership is reportedly Hispanic. Obama raised the issue of timing of the opposition to the casino sites. No one objected to the rules, he pointed out, until the union decided to "support the guy who's standing with the working people instead of the big shots."

The Culinary Union sent out fliers to their members that said, "Backers of Hillary Clinton are suing in court to take away our right to vote in the caucus". A similar message was also broadcast in ads on Spanish-language radio. Former President Bill Clinton, however, supported the decision to institute the lawsuit, saying, "I think the rules ought to be the same for everybody."

Meanwhile Democratic campaign offices are busy preparing for the caucuses. The first to arrive here, Clinton immediately made for the Culinary Union, where she seemed to find support. Democrat Party officers are estimating up to 40,000 people to attend; this would make it about 10 percent of the Democrats from the state, considerably higher than the turnout in previous years.

Obama too has increased his TV advertising and is especially emphasizing his union endorsement. Paul however is the only Republican who has TV ads in the state and may even find some support from libertarian groups in Nevada. Meanwhile, Mitt Romney is targeting the Mormon community in some radio ads. 


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