by Matt Fleming | October 21, 2016 1:45 pm
Prominent Democratic strategists who would eventually get top posts in Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign debated the political strategy of moving the date of California’s primary election, according to hacked emails recently released by WikiLeaks.
In December 2014, prior to Clinton announcing her candidacy, Robby Mook and John Podesta (who would become Clinton’s campaign manager and campaign chairman, respectively) discussed their preference to keep blue stats like California late in the primary process.
Mook had been contacted by another Democratic strategist, Chris Lehane, who served in Bill Clinton’s administration. According to the email, Lehane had called Mook about the California primary after speaking with Podesta, who had given Lehane the impression that he wanted to move the date.
Mook sought clarification, as he believed there was already a strategy in place to keep reliably Democratic states late in the primary process.
“FYI–Lehane called me about CA primary and I told him that the operating strategy is to keep blue states late (i.e. don’t move CA),” Mook wrote to Podesta. “He said he was at dinner with you and was under the impression that you wanted to move it earlier. He’s wondering how to proceed and I said I’d try to get us on the same page and go back with an answer. Are you ok with me saying that we both want CA to stay where it is?”
There was no reply from Podesta in the email dump. But an email from March 2015 — just weeks before Clinton officially announced her candidacy — showed Mook hoping California Senate President Pro Tempore Kevin de Leon would weigh in on the timing of the primary.
“I met with Cal State Senate President. Super enthusiastic,” Podesta wrote to Mook in an email with the Los Angeles Democrat’s name in the subject line. “Do anything including travel to other states. Also volunteered to line up other state senators.”
“Fantastic,” Mook exclaimed. “Did he mention moving the primary date at all?”
A spokesman for de Leon did not immediately return requests for comment. Clinton’s campaign did not immediately respond as well.
This election cycle has been rife with complaints and conspiracy theories that the Democratic nomination process was skewed toward Clinton.
Former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley complained the Democratic National Committee scheduled the debates to favor Clinton. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders had his own concerns.
Indeed, the complaints of a rigged process from the public and Clinton’s primary opponents and their supporters — some of the complaints were supported by other Wikileaks dumps — were so great that Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz was ousted from her perch atop the DNC.
As voters know, the date of California’s primary did not change. And Clinton won handily in June, as well as in 2008 against Barack Obama.
According to John J. Pitney, Jr., a Roy P. Crocker professor of politics at Claremont McKenna College, those two facts should quiet concerns of a “rigged” election in a “Clinton-friendly state.”
“Conspiracy-minded Democrats might pounce on the staff chatter, but it’s not the kind of thing that makes a difference to voters,” Pitney said. “The issue might get more traction if there are revelations that states did shift dates in a deliberate effort to help Clinton, or if Clinton herself was involved in the effort.”
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