Politics & Government

November 30, 2013

Democrats say they are ‘Ready for Hillary’ in North Texas

Efforts to encourage Hillary Clinton to run for president began locally this year.

Some local Democrats say they are ready.

Ready for Hillary, that is.

They won’t get to cast ballots in the presidential race for three more years, but they are among those nationwide who want to make sure their voices are heard loud and clear — and now.

That’s why they have joined a grassroots movement to support Hillary Clinton’s anticipated 2016 presidential bid.

“The goal is to gather up as much support as we can,” said Sergio De Leon, a Tarrant County justice of the peace and volunteer with the Ready for Hillary effort. “I don’t think there has ever been such a united front for one particular candidate.

“With that in mind, I think she has to look hard at this, knowing the support out there,” he said. “It makes it very hard for her to say no.”

De Leon and others say they want Clinton — the former first lady, senator and secretary of state — to go into the race with an army of supporters lined up and prepared to fight for her.

A Ready for Hillary super political action committee raised more than $1.25 million in the first half of the year. Organizers say more than 1 million supporters have already signed on.

Longtime Clinton friends and former co-workers are fanning out across the country, spreading the word about the need to build support for a presidential bid.

So far, Craig Smith, a former White House political director for President Bill Clinton, and Sheila Galbraith Bronfman, a former Clinton aide and longtime family friend, have come to Tarrant County to meet with local supporters.

Tarrant County supporters of Hillary Clinton were the first to gather batches of donations in the amount of $20.16, a trend that has spread nationwide. And another local event may be held in the coming months.

Republicans say the effort might be a bit premature.

“I think they are getting the cart before the horse,” said state Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford. “Democrats are about to lose a lot of elections locally, and I think they know they aren’t going to be able to turn this state blue.

“There’s no way that’s going to succeed,” he said. “Not here.”

Importance of Texas

In 2008, Clinton fought hard for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, battling with Barack Obama in state after state. For a time, the primary was so close that many thought it could come down to the party’s superdelegates.

Texas will long be remembered for giving Clinton the popular vote in the 2008 Democratic primary but awarding Obama more delegates in the caucus process, through an unusual way of choosing presidential delegates.

A two-tiered system that awards delegates through both a popular vote and postelection caucuses, known as the “Texas Two-Step,” drew national scrutiny.

After the polls closed, delegates statewide showed up in such large numbers that they essentially overwhelmed the system.

“Texas is important,” said Jim Riddlesperger, a political science professor at TCU. “The critical turning point in Barack Obama’s campaign was in 2008 with his pseudo-victory in Texas.

“If Hillary had been able to rout him in Texas, as she had hoped, she might have very well gotten the nomination.”

In the end, Obama claimed enough votes, and Clinton herself moved to nominate him by acclamation at the national convention. Four years later, her husband, former President Bill Clinton, nominated Obama for re-election.

In 2008, “the time was right for Barack Obama,” Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., told the media recently. “2016 is Hillary’s time — and our nation will be better for it.”

Some local Republicans say they haven’t tuned into the Ready for Hillary campaign.

“We are talking a lot about the 2014 election leading up to 2016,” said Jennifer Hall, who heads the Tarrant County Republican Party. “We are paying close attention to what happens here.

“We haven’t thought about ‘Ready for Hillary.’”

Laying the groundwork

This year, organizers began laying the groundwork and trying to keep grassroots supporters energized for a possible presidential bid by Hillary Clinton in 2016.

Since leaving office as secretary of state, Clinton has remained in the public eye by traveling the country speaking to party supporters and other groups. And she plans to release a book next year.

Supporters, meanwhile, have created the super PAC and hosted fundraisers and strategy discussions, and they are working to invigorate supporters — all without knowing whether Clinton will again try to become the first female president.

They do say it’s a good sign that Clinton has made no moves to stop the Ready for Hillary work.

“I doubt Hillary has made the decision whether to run or not,” Riddlesperger said. “The truth is that she may wait to see what happens in the midterm elections.

“But she’s trying to let everyone out there know she’s in the game,” he said. “Many people may choose not to run if they know Hillary is going to run. She would like to head off the next Barack Obama.”

Ready for Hillary isn’t seeking donations to help with a presidential bid, should Clinton make one, but to drum up early support and generate attention for a potential campaign. Officials in the group have limited single donations to $25,000.

“The goal is to identify Hillary supporters so Hillary will be ready to run in 2016,” said Jason Smith, a local attorney, 2008 Clinton delegate and leader of Tarrant for Hillary. “I absolutely think Hillary Clinton is going to run.

“I don’t think she can stay away from the need for public service.”

‘Texas is in play’

Many Democrats who supported Clinton in 2008 are back on board, volunteers say.

In Tarrant County, a reunion of Clinton supporters this year drew dozens of residents. Local donations are flowing into the nationwide effort. And a Tarrant for Hillary 2016 Facebook page has sprung up.

“I’m seeing old Hillary supporters coming back, plus Obama supporters — plus moderate Republicans who are sick of the Republican war on women,” Jason Smith said. “They just can’t wait to do something for Hillary.”

In recent weeks, Clinton surrogates have attended fundraisers in Houston and San Antonio, generating hundreds of thousands of dollars for the effort and drawing supporters such as Garry Mauro, a former state land commissioner and decades-long friend of the Clintons’, as well as a number of state and federal officials.

Supporters say Clinton will likely announce her decision by early 2015.

“We’ll continue to harness the support of Hillary supporters across the country, build up our social media networks, gather contributions large and small, and show Hillary the support she has,” said Seth Bringman, a spokesman for Ready for Hillary.

“We are also urging our now more than 1 million supporters to speak out on the issues Hillary is advocating in her speeches throughout the country, like healthcare, immigration reform and voting rights,” he said, adding that supporters will be encouraged to get involved in the 2014 elections as well.

Local Democrats believe that Clinton has a chance to rid Texas of its overall red status.

“A lot of people think Hillary could be competitive in Texas in 2016 given the demographic changes,” Smith said. “I think if Hillary runs, Texas is in play.”

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