Bernie Sanders won big across the North Dakota landscape in Tuesday’s presidential preference caucus, capturing more delegates than self-declared nominee Hillary Clinton in all but five of the 47 districts, state party figures show.
The Vermont senator’s dominance is likely to embolden his supporters to put even more pressure on the state’s five unpledged superdelegates to back him at the Democratic National Convention next month in Philadelphia.
Regional press secretary Diane May said the Sanders campaign has been actively talking to superdelegates in all states and will be “ramping that up” now that the caucus and primary season is winding down, with the District of Columbia’s primary next Tuesday being the last contest.
“We’ve always said that in states where we had an overwhelming victory, the superdelegates should vote the way of the people, and in North Dakota, they should vote the will of the caucus-goers,” she said Wednesday.
North Dakota hosted one of six nominating contests Tuesday and the only caucus, the others being primaries. Sanders won the Montana primary while Clinton took New Jersey, New Mexico, South Dakota and the biggest prize, California.
Clinton now leads 2,755 to 1,852 in the overall delegate count – 2,184 to 1,804 in pledged delegates and 571 to 48 in unpledged superdelegates, according to an Associated Press tally.
Sanders cruised to a 253-101 victory in delegates in North Dakota, with an additional 40 delegates uncommitted. Clinton managed to pick up more delegates than Sanders in just three districts.
The former secretary of state fared best in District 23, which includes the Spirit Lake Indian Reservation and Eddy, Nelson, Griggs and Steele counties, receiving seven delegates to Sanders’ two.
Clinton came out ahead 4-2 in District 33 in Mercer, Oliver and Morton counties and 4-3 in District 15 in Towner and Ramsey counties.
Two districts gave the candidates three delegates each: District 14, located in Pierce, Sheridan, Wells, Benson and Kidder counties, and District 2 in Williston.
Democratic-NPL Party Executive Director Robert Haider said he was “not surprised at all” by Sanders’ solid showing in the state.
“The strong support and the strong grassroots organization he had here, they brought out a lot of new people and a lot of energy,” he said.
Delegates selected Tuesday will participate in a June 18 meeting in Bismarck to elect 18 pledged delegates to attend the national convention along with the five superdelegates.
Of the five superdelegates, U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp is committed to Clinton and national committeeman Chad Nodland is supporting Sanders. Dem-NPL chair Kylie Oversen, vice chair Warren Larson and national committeewoman Renee Pfenning remain uncommitted.
Haider said caucus turnout Tuesday was “far in excess of what we were expecting,” but the party won’t publicly release turnout numbers.