Hawaii Congressman Mark Takai remained steadfast Monday in his support for Hillary Clinton despite Bernie Sanders’ big wins Saturday in Hawaii’s presidential preference poll and caucuses in Alaska and Washington state.

Sanders dominated Hawaii with 70 percent of the ballots cast, which gave him 17 pledged delegates and Clinton eight. He continues to trail her though, 975 to 1,243.

That has Sanders supporters trying to not only win the remaining primaries over the next few months but also sway superdelegates, like Takai, who are free to choose whichever candidate they want this summer at the Democratic National Convention.

Congressman Mark Takai editorial board1. 29 march 2016.
Congressman Mark Takai speaks to Civil Beat’s editorial team on Monday. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Some superdelegates have already pledged their support to a particular candidate, which as of Monday would give Clinton 1,712 total delegates to Sanders’ 1,004. It takes 2,383 to win the nomination, and delegate-rich states like New York and California have yet to hold their primaries.

Petitions are circulating to pressure superdelegates — decided or not — to nominate Sanders, particularly in states he won by wide margins.

“Hawaii Democratic superdelegates could do a wonderful thing and take it upon themselves to support the candidate that gets the most pledged delegate votes,” says a moveon.org petition that had 794 signatures as of Monday.

In 2008, Clinton had a big superdelegate lead over Barack Obama early in the campaign. But as he started winning state after state, some superdelegates switched sides.

U.S. Congressman Mark Takai On Super Delegates and the Democratic Presidential Preference Poll from Civil Beat on Vimeo.

Hawaii has 10 superdelegates, which include state Democratic Party leaders, Gov. David Ige, Lt. Gov. Shan Tsutsui and the four-member congressional delegation. Ige has not made his presidential preference clear yet. Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard supports Sanders, and U.S. Sens. Brian Schatz and Mazie Hirono are backing Clinton.

Takai decided earlier this year that he would be supporting Clinton, and said Monday that he continues to feel she’s the best candidate for president.

But he left the door open.

“The national convention is not until the end of July. Never say never,” Takai told Civil Beat’s editorial board during an hourlong interview.

“The national convention is not until the end of July. Never say never.” — Congressman Mark Takai

When asked what statement Sanders’ lopsided win had on the Democratic establishment in Hawaii who largely supported Clinton, Takai said there was a lot of excitement at the precincts Saturday but that the number of people who participated in the presidential preference poll only amounts to about 3 percent of the voting public. There were 33,716 ballots cast.

“Caucuses tend to bring out the activists and the people who are really, really interested in that particular race,” he said. “It’s like that for elections, but everyone else comes out as well.”

Takai said his primary focus right now is campaigning to keep his Congressional District 1 seat representing urban Oahu. After 20 years in the Legislature, he won the U.S. House seat in 2014.

“I support Hillary Clinton. I made that preference known earlier this year,” he said. “But I’ve got to focus on my race. I’ve got to focus on my re-election.”

As of Friday, Democrat Javier Ocasio was the only other candidate who has filed to run. He’s an Army-veteran-turned-activist who was inspired to seek elected office for the first time by Sanders’ campaign.

“We’re treating this year’s campaign as if it’s going to be my toughest ever,” Takai said. “We’re treating everyone seriously.”

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