Calls for unity
Several Oregon delegates kicked off the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia on Monday listening to Bernie Sanders in a packed, rowdy room of his supporters, who booed when the Vermont senator tried rallying them behind Hillary Clinton.
Sanders' bid was part of a larger, organization-wide effort to prevent further division within the party after Sunday's resignation of Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Her plans to step down after the convention this week stem from thousands of emails that were leaked over the weekend showing DNC staff favored Clinton during the primary.
The revelations reignited strong feelings among some Sanders supporters, who have had mixed feelings about his endorsement for Clinton weeks ago in an effort to defeat GOP nominee Donald Trump in November.
Matthew Keating, an Oregon delegate pledged to Sanders who also worked on his local campaign, said it was a "wise move" for Wasserman Schultz to resign and agrees with Sanders about shifting their focus to defeating Trump.
"Sen. Sanders is a man of his word, and he said early on he was going to support the nominee," Keating told The Associated Press. "We can hold our head high, but we have vitally important work still to do ... We're not going away. This movement doesn't end with a convention or an election."
More than half of Oregon's 61 delegates are pledged to Sanders, who won almost 57 percent of the vote during the state's primary election in May.
Oregon was also to take the national spotlight Monday evening, when U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley and state House Speaker Tina Kotek address the convention along with Sanders, Michelle Obama and Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
Oregon state Rep. Shemia Fagan, a pledged Clinton delegate, said Wasserman Schultz's resignation should help bring Sanders' supporters back into the party's fold.
"They just want their candidate to be given credit for the impact he's had on the Democratic Party," Fagan said. "It helps them feel like they were heard and like someone was held accountable, so I'm really optimistic about party unity ... This convention isn't about Debbie Wasserman Schultz. It's about defeating Donald Trump."
Oregon also has 13 superdelegates, a term for those who are free to vote however they please — a powerful role that Sanders supporters failed to get abolished Saturday during a DNC meeting but instead reached an agreement to scale back their influence in future elections.
Three of those 13 superdelegates — Merkley, Lupita Maurer and Larry Taylor — have endorsed Sanders, while nine are backing Clinton. The only uncommitted superdelegate is U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio, whose staff has not responded to AP's several requests for comment since late last week.
Taylor, an outspoken critic of the superdelegate system, said Wasserman Schultz's resignation was a good step toward party unity. But "if they would start putting people in places at the DNC that conducted themselves with some kind of integrity, that's what they need to do," he said.