NY Dems Changing Rules Of '08 Primary

Democratic hopefuls John Edwards, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton talk about health care at the New Leadership on Health Care Presidential Forum at The Cox Pavilion, Saturday, March 24, 2007 in Las Vegas.
While Rudy Giuliani may be able to waltz out of New York with all the state's Republican National Convention delegates safely in hand, Democratic Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton could have a fight on her hands.

State Democratic Party officials on Friday took the wraps off their proposed plan for selecting the 280 delegates New York will send to the 2008 national convention in Denver. Voting results in the state's 29 individual congressional districts for the presidential primary will determine how 151 of those delegates are apportioned.

The Republican plan by contrast is simple. Win the overall state GOP primary vote and a candidate wins all 87 delegates at stake. Another 14 GOP delegate slots go to top state Republican leaders. Polls show Giuliani, the former New York City mayor, far ahead of the GOP competition in his home state.

While polls also show his fellow New Yorker, Clinton, well ahead of the pack on the Democratic side, there is no winner-take-all option available for her at home.

Under the complex plan used by the Democrats, any presidential candidate who wins at least 15 percent of the primary vote in a congressional district wins a proportional share of that district's delegates. Each district in the state has five or six delegates at stake in the primary.

Then, after the primary, New York Democrats will stage a state convention at which 81 other delegates pledged to support individual candidates will be selected based on the share of the vote won by any candidate who gets more than 15 percent of the statewide vote in the primary. The convention will also chose four unpledged at-large delegates to go with 24 members of Congress who get automatic national convention delegate spots as do 20 top state officials and party leaders such as Spitzer.

"Our delegate selection plan and process, which provides for special efforts to attract interest among traditionally underrepresented groups, will help ensure that the New York delegation to the national convention represents the great diversity and inclusiveness of our state," said Reginald LaFayette, chairman of the state party's delegate selection plan committee.

To help accomplish that, the state party has established goals that call for, among other things, 78 black delegates, 50 Hispanics and 22 spots for "lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans."

The delegate selection plan will be voted on by state party leaders at their spring meeting on May 9 in Albany.

Legislation to move up New York's primary to Feb. 5, when California and host of other states are also expected to be voting, has been approved by the Republican-led state Senate and Democratic-controlled Assembly. Democratic Gov. Eliot Spitzer has indicated he plans to sign that measure.