The chair of the Democratic Party of Hawaii was watching CNN last Saturday when she noticed that the Aloha State was listed as having 35 delegates in the 2016 presidential election.

That came as a surprise to Stephanie Ohigashi, as the party had been advertising that it had 34 delegates — 25 pledged ones and nine at-large superdelegates who are allowed to support whoever they want.

It turned out that just the day before, the National Lieutenant Governors Association announced that Hawaii’s lieutenant governor, Shan Tsutsui, would be given superdelegate status because he is chair of the association’s Democratic lieutenant governors.

“We congratulate him and know that he will represent Hawaii well on the national level,” said Ohigashi.

Gubernatorial candidate David Ige and running mate Shan Tsutsui after third print out at Democratic Party of Hawaii's Democratic Coordinated Election Night Celebration held at the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii. 4 November 2014. photograph by Cory Lum
Shan Tsutsui, left, who became lieutenant governor in 2012, celebrates winning a full term on Election Night in November 2014 with David Ige, who was elected governor that night. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

The announcement carries some significance, as Bernie Sanders, the Vermont senator who is doggedly competing in the Democratic presidential contest, has recently argued that superdelegates should be willing to jump ship from their support for Hillary Clinton.

Sanders has won five of the last six state contests, including a 70 percent to 30 percent victory over the former secretary of state in Hawaii’s preference poll.

While Clinton’s lead is formidable — as of Thursday she had 1,259 pledged delegates and 483 superdelegates to Sanders 1,020 and 31, respectively — it is theoretically not insurmountable.

Exactly 2,383 delegates are needed to clinch the nomination.

CNN reports that 2,042 delegates are still available. Big states still remain on the primary and caucus election schedule, including Wisconsin, New York, Pennsylvania, Indiana, California and New Jersey.

In last Saturday’s presidential preference poll, Sanders picked up 17 pledged delegates and Clinton eight. Here’s the list of Hawaii’s superdelegates and who they have said they are supporting:

  • Gov. David Ige — uncommitted
  • U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono — Clinton
  • U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz — Clinton
  • U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard — Sanders
  • U.S. Rep. Mark Takai — Clinton
  • DNC National Committeewoman Jadine Neilsen — Clinton
  • DNC National Committeeman Russell Okata — Clinton
  • DNC Hawaii State Party Chairperson Stephanie Ohigashi — Uncommitted
  • DNC Hawaii State Party Vice Chair Douglas Pyle — Uncommitted
  • DNC Affiliated Organization Representative: Hawaii Lt. Gov. Shan Tsutsui — Clinton

At least one Hawaii superdelegate, U.S. Rep. Mark Takai, said he remains committed to Clinton but would “never say never” should Sanders ride into the party’s national convention this summer with a hefty delegate count of his own.

Former Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie, himself a former superdelegate, said this week that Hawaii’s other superdelegates should not write Sanders off.

For his part, Tsutsui said he will remain “open-minded” about who he will support. While he endorsed Clinton, that was well before he learned of his superdelegate status.

“It’s still early in the process,” he said. “I obviously support Hillary, but I certainly see the sentiment view of the majority of folks who voted during the caucus. I remain open and will do a little more homework on the process.”

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