More tales of the purged and unpurged

As Lisa Vorderbrueggen and I report in today’s editions, unprecedented numbers of Democrats had signed up as candidates to be delegates for Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton in advance of this Sunday’s districts in each of California’s congressionional districts.

Then, on Wednesday, the campaigns invoked their little-known authority to purge almost half those candidates — more from Obama’s side than Clinton’s — fearing that some might be “Trojan horses” who would say they supported one candidate but then flip to the other at the Democratic National Convention this August in Denver. Then, late yesterday, the campaigns seemed to realize how colossally bad this made them look, and reinstated almost everyone.

Lisa and I had started writing the story Tuesday, and had to re-report it twice since then. In all the hubbub, some of the people we’d been talking to didn’t make it into the final story, but I think they’re interesting nonetheless. Read about a few of ’em, after the jump…

jenn-pae2.jpgOn Tuesday, Jennifer Pae, 25, of Oakland, was describing her plans to take her campaign for a 9th District Obama delegate seat from cyberspace – where she’d been rallying support for weeks through MySpace and Facebook – to knocking her neighbors’ doors today. But on Wednesday, she was purged.

“I am disappointed, we don’t have all the information as of yet,” she had said early Thursday, clearly striving to be diplomatic. “If anything, more information would’ve been really helpful for all of us. … We all wanted to be able to actively participate in this process as Democrats and as Obama supporters, to have an election by our peers.”

She and Berkeley’s Teddy Ky-Nam Miller, 29 – also purged from the 9th District Obama list – both had laughed when asked if they were secret pro-Clinton sleeper cells trying to infiltrate the Obama camp’s ranks.

teddy-miller-1.bmp“Of course not,” Miller said, noting even a cursory online search would show his support for Obama dating back well over a year. “For me to flip would’ve been beyond comprehension.”

“It could’ve been handled a lot better,” the third-year law student said of the purge. “But I’m 100 percent behind Obama and I’m going to continue doing whatever I can to get him elected.”

I got back to Jenn Pae late Thursday after the campaigns reinstated her, Miller and all those other delegates; she hadn’t missed a beat.

“I’m actually at the UC-Berkeley campus right now, I’m going to the Cal Democrats meeting and then the Students for Obama meeting to talk about this caucus,” she said. “There’s no time to waste, there’s a lot at stake.”

freid.gifOakland attorney and longtime Democratic activist Joel Freid went to Boston as a John Kerry delegate in 2004, and had survived this week’s purge to remain a 9th District Obama delegate candidate. He was happy about that, but understood the disappointment and anger of those who were temporarily cut. He’s among those who believe it would’ve been better to stick to the old system of electing delegates before the presidential primary: “The party should take a hard look at whether we want to return to that practice in the next cycle.”

“I don’t think the vetting process in either the Hillary or the Obama camp was any effort to reduce participation,” said Freid, 44. “I think the main intent… was an interest in avoiding a Trojan horse situation, but that doesn’t mean a large number of the eliminated candidates weren’t absolutely committed to electing their presidential candidate.”

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.