Democrats Go To Polls In Kentucky, Oregon Primaries

May 17, 2016
Originally published on May 18, 2016 12:24 pm
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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

As the presidential campaign moves through the final primary races, the Democratic Party is now dealing with a hangover from the Nevada caucuses which took place back in February. There was a violent disturbance over the weekend driven by supporters of Senator Bernie Sanders at the state party convention where Hillary Clinton was awarded a majority of the delegates.

Now, we'll have more on that in a moment. But first we want to take a look at the contest happening today in Kentucky and Oregon. And NPR senior editor and correspondent Ron Elving is with us to talk more. Hey there, Ron.

RON ELVING, BYLINE: Hey, Audie.

CORNISH: So polls close in Oregon in a couple of hours. But we do have polls in Kentucky - have been closed for about an hour and a half. What do we know so far?

ELVING: Audie, with 83 percent of the vote counted thus far in Kentucky, the race is too close to call. Hillary Clinton is maintaining about a 3,000 vote margin out of 400,000 votes cast, roughly. And that is just a little bit under 1 percentage point. So the race is quite close, and there is some surprise perhaps in my voice because most people after the West Virginia primary had gone so heavily for Bernie Sanders expected something similar in Kentucky.

CORNISH: Now, what about Oregon? What do we know about that state that might give us some sense of where we're headed tonight?

ELVING: Audie, there's almost no polling, really, to go on. There was one poll there that showed Clinton ahead, but people were casting a great deal of doubt on that one poll because most of the dynamic in the race would seem to favor Bernie Sanders. We've seen a dynamic for a number of weeks now where states that tend to be more progressive tend to favor Bernie Sanders. But it is a closed primary where only Democrats can vote.

There is a sizeable vote there in the state that is youthful, and that usually goes for Bernie Sanders. But there's also a community over 45 that does seem to favor Hillary Clinton at least in what polling has been done. So perhaps that will be closer than people expected. But we understand the Clinton campaign really has made very little effort there, not bought a lot of ads, not spent a lot of money or time, more or less writing that one off for Bernie Sanders some while ago.

CORNISH: All right, so that's the word when it comes to primaries, and I want to talk now about the caucuses, specifically in Nevada and specifically the upset over what went on there. Hillary Clinton won the local caucuses in February, OK? And that result was reflected at the state convention this weekend. And then we hear about supporters of Senator Sanders seen shouting obscenities, some accounts of throwing furniture. And the state party chair has talked about getting death threats. Ron, what is going on? What do we actually know?

ELVING: It got quite rough on Saturday night, and here's the reason. In the interim between the February caucuses where Hillary Clinton actually won and got roughly the share of delegates that she got from the convention, there was an intermediary step - another tier of caucuses where there was an effort to rebalance the delegate awards from February. And Sanders people felt that they had more or less won that tier and that they might be coming out ahead.

Then, at the state convention, when they got there, there was - there were disputes over the rules. There were voiced votes that the Sanders people felt were not fairly called by the state party chair. They got increasingly angry. They got increasingly vocal and abusive to the speakers on the stage, especially the women, including the state party chair. And now we've had all this abuse that's followed on that.

Today Senator Sanders condemned the violence or, if you will, the disruption - said he certainly did not condone it, believed only in nonviolent change. And he did not, though, actually apologize for it, and he did talk a lot about what he considered the unfair treatment of his supporters, which, in many people's ears, sounded a little bit as though he were taking the side of the protestors and condoning some of their actions.

CORNISH: I'm sure we'll hear more about this, and we'll hear more results later tonight. NPR's Ron Elving - Ron, thanks so much.

ELVING: Thank you, Audie. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.