Big decision for small town lawyer

May 31, 2008 3:43:48 AM PDT
It's a battle to the finish in the race for the White House. A big meeting this weekend could decide if Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama is the final Democratic candidate standing. The Democratic party's rules and bylaws committee is set to gather Saturday in Washington D.C. to discuss the discounted delegates from Michigan and Florida.

They'll decide whether or not to count those delegates, count only half of them or none of them at all. And the only committee member from Texas sat down with me this week to talk about the meeting, the delegates and the most closely contested primary in a long time.

McAllen, Texas is a small but growing border town with a proud, hard-working population that, for its size, is very politically active. And believe it or not, McAllen is also home to an attorney who could end up playing a pivotal role in determining the Democratic nominee for president.

"It has been phenomenal," said DNC committee Jaime Gonzalez, Jr.

FULL VIDEO: Watch our complete interview with Gonzalez
TOM'S BLOG: Keep up with the race on Tom Abrahams' blog

Gonzalez is a superdelegate and DNC member who is on the powerful rules and bylaws committee. That's the panel that stripped delegates from Florida and Michigan for breaking party rules and holding their primaries too early.

"There's always that potential that it may come down to one or two states or a few delegates as has happened," he told us. "So that potential was there. But we also believed that the states need to take responsibility to comply with the rules."

Both states are proving important, with Florida's 211 delegates off the table along with 157 from Michigan. Though neither she nor Obama campaigned in either state and Obama's name was not on the Michigan ballot, the states want the delegates to count.

"I know globally that they want their delegates to be seated," said Gonzalez. "But that's not enough. They need to have a valid argument why they should be seated."

Saturday, he will be among the 30 committee members to decide what to do. He's feeling the pressure.

"As this meeting has gotten closer, I get more mail now, even more," he said. "I get a lot of emails from everyone out there."

Most of the mail for including the delegates comes from Clinton supporters. And Gonzalez, who endorsed Clinton, says the decision Saturday could keep her in the race.

"When you match up the amount of delegates that these two states have and you match up the uncommitted superdelegates, that becomes a very large number," said Gonzalez.

But he adds that his personal opinions won't sway how he votes on Saturday.

"I intend to do what is best for the party as whole, independent of whatever endorsement I may have made," he said. "I want to insure the integrity of the process."

It's a big responsibility for a man from McAllen, a place you'd think was as far away from beltway politics as you could get.

To see an extended 15 minute interview with Jaime Gonzalez, click here. And to view the DNC document that outlines the rules for counting delegates, we've posted the entire thing on TheVote.abc13.com

*Are you a politics junkie? We have more political gems on our four political blogs written by a White House insider, PhD and Eyewitness News reporters.


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