FRIDAY, June 13, 2008, 3:08 p.m.
By Craig Gilbert
Clinton delegate to vote for McCain
As an avid supporter of Hillary Rodham Clinton in the Democratic primaries, Debra Bartoshevich is not alone in her frustration over Clinton's defeat.
She's not alone in refusing to support Barack Obama.
And she's not entirely alone in saying she'll vote this fall for Republican John McCain instead.
But what makes her unusual is that she holds these views as an elected delegate to the Democratic National Convention in Denver this summer.
"I'm sure people are going to be upset with me. I don't want to lose my national delegate status," says Bartoshevich, a 41-year-old emergency room nurse who is a convention delegate, pledged to Clinton, from Waterford in Racine County.
Joe Wineke, the chairman of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, reacted with disbelief when first told Friday afternoon that one of his state party delegates is now a McCain supporter.
"Not a delegate? To the national convention?" asked Wineke, who was getting ready for the start of the state party convention Friday in Stevens Point.
"We have a Clinton national (convention) delegate who says she's voting for John McCain?" Wineke repeated, for clarification. "I've never heard of such a thing."
Wineke said "almost everybody I know who was for Hillary" is solidly behind Obama now. As for Bartoshevich, he said, "my suspicion is she doesn't know what she's getting into" because "the delegates to this convention will be very upset."
Asked if publicly supporting the other party's presidential nominee could affect a delegate's convention status, Wineke said, "I never thought I'd ever get a question like this."
After some preliminary checking, the state party chair said he assumed she would remain a delegate.
The McCain campaign said that, nationally, it was not aware at this point of any other delegates to the Democratic convention (it may know of an alternate, it said) who have come out for the Republican candidate.
In an interview, Bartoshevich expressed lingering unhappiness over the Democratic nominating process, said Clinton was treated unfairly by the party, and said she has deep reservations about Obama's lack of experience and his judgment.
"I'm kind of disenfranchised," she said.
She said she planned to vote for Clinton at the convention, but in an Obama-McCain match-up in November, "I will not be voting for Obama. I will cast my vote for John McCain.
Said Bartoshevich: "I just feel you need to have somebody who has experience with foreign matters."
She said a series of controversial Obama "associations," including but not limited to the Rev. Jeremiah Wright and Chicago developer Tony Rezko, reflected poorly on his judgment. And she echoed the complaints of many of Clinton's most ardent supporters that Clinton was treated unfairly in the nominating process and by the party.
"No self-respecting woman should wish or work for the success of a party that ignores her - that's by Susan B. Anthony," said Bartoshevich, referring to the famous suffragist.
Bartoshevich called herself a "devoted Democrat" who, she said, had never voted for a Republican for president.
"I'm on a lot of the (pro-Clinton) blogs, and so many people, male and female, feel the same way as I do," said Bartoshevich, who was listed as a Racine County co-chair for the Clinton campaign and who traveled outside Wisconsin to volunteer for Clinton. "The Democrats jumped on this wagon of Barack Obama and nobody really knows him."
Hoping to tap into discontent among Clinton supporters, the McCain campaign is reaching out to them in a variety of ways, including a telephone "town hall" meeting Saturday targeted to non-Republican voters. Encouraged by her sister, who has served in Iraq, Bartoshevich signed up as a supporter with "Citizens for McCain," an arm of the campaign targeting Democrats and independents. She said she then got a call from the McCain campaign, which in turn provided her name to a reporter.
Polls suggest that Democrats are largely rallying around Obama after a divisive nominating fight, a phenomenon that has occurred in past intra-party fights, say scholars. But it remains to be seen whether Obama is hurt in the fall by any softness among from Clinton's core constituencies, especially white women, and older and lower-income whites.
Clinton has not formally "released" her pledged delegates, and it would not be unusual, given recent history, for most of them to cast their votes for Clinton at the convention. But she has urged her delegates to help Obama defeat McCain.
Professor Byron Shafer, a University of Wisconsin-Madison scholar who is an expert on conventions, said it's the fact that Bartoshevich is a convention delegate, subject to the partisan tendencies and pressures common to party activists, that makes her public support for McCain so unusual.
"The competitive partisan dynamic is usually strong enough that even the people not willing to line up at the convention on record for the nominee, are still unlikely to be willing to line up publicly for the other party's nominee," said Shafer. "It's a pretty far-out move."
Asked what kind of reception he would expect Bartoshevich to get from her fellow delegates, he said: "I would guess a lot of people will be very rude and very unpleasant."