Martin Kasindorf, Trudi Loh, John Tomasic, and Alison Mcgee contributed reporting to this article.
Who are the California superdelegates and what are they thinking? Of the 66 unpledged delegates, thirty-six comprise the state's Congressional delegation. The remaining thirty are Democratic National Committee members, appointed or elected because of their party activism. The following nine are a sample of who they are and what's on their minds.
Art Torres is the chairman of the California Democratic Party. He's a retired state senator and was a personal assistant to Cesar Chavez. DNC rules do not allow him to make an endorsement. "The notion of smoke filled rooms is not accurate," he says. "Superdelegates are not going to make deals."
Charles (Chuck) Manatt, co-chair of the Clinton-Gore campaign in 1992 and U.S. Ambassador to the Dominican Republic from 1999 to 2001, says he was responsible for creating Democratic Party superdelegates. Campaigning for the DNC chairmanship in 1981, he pointed out that giving all the power to delegates elected in primaries and caucuses risked losing the loyalty and hard work of elected officials. "We had only 17 elected officials at the 1980 convention," he said. "To win their support in the general election, we needed them at the conventions." Elected officials became the first superdelegates in 1981. Members of the DNC, former presidents, vice presidents and DNC chairs were added later.
Manatt was an early endorser of Hillary Clinton. "I came out for her last summer. I just think she's the best-prepared of our candidates. The problems of our country are so deep...housing, education, the environment, the gut issues of defense and the terror threat. She's the best: ready, prepared, experienced."
Norma J. Torres was born in Guatamala, arriving in the U.S. at the age of five. She became a political activist after the shooting death of a 12-year-old girl who'd spent 20 minutes on hold due to a shortage of Spanish-speaking operators. Today she works as a 911 dispatcher for the city of Los Angeles while serving as mayor of nearby Pomona.
Torres issued this endorsement of Barack Obama at a Jan. 13, 2008 news conference in Los Angeles with other California Latino leaders: "This is not about black or brown. It's about having a president who can unite our cities, a president who will unite our country, and a president who is not waving his finger up in the air to see which way the wind is blowing. The wind is blowing in OUR direction, at the community level."
Asked if she could she be persuaded to switch, she replied, "With the superdelegates, I think anything is possible. But, at this point I'm not looking to switch. I would like Governor Dean to have a heart-to-heart with both candidates. I really think we need to work this out before the convention."
She says she supports the DNC's decision not to count the delegate votes in Michigan and Florida. "We made a decision and we should stand with our decision. To undo it now would be unfair to the candidates - not just to Senator Clinton and Senator Obama, but to Richardson, Edwards and Biden. The field might be very different now if those primaries had been contested."
Steve Ybarra, a strong advocate for Latino and minority rights, wrote an angry email last month to his fellow Chicano Latino Caucus members after he learned that Clinton's Latina campaign manager, Patti Solis Doyle, was asked to step down. He pointed out that Clinton had received overwhelming Latino support on Super Tuesday. "Apparently, loyalty is not a two-way street," he wrote. "Latino superdelegates like myself will have cause to pause." He told the New York Post that the staff shakeup before the Texas primary, where 36 percent of the population is Hispanic, was "dumb as a stump."
Ybarra is a business management consultant who teaches communication courses at Sacramento City College. He's been active in party politics since 1990, explaining, "I went to work for legal services after law school and have been raising hell ever since."
He's still undecided about the candidates. "I'm not endorsing yet. I'm waiting till I hear what I want to hear. There's really only one factor for me: which of the candidates are more committed to Latino voters, which one will take up our concerns for the fall election."
Ybarra says his decision won't be based on the popular vote alone. "The popular vote is a made-up thing. Why should 100,000 Iowans decide who will be the country's Democratic nominee?
As for the Michigan and Florida delegates, "I don't think Michigan delegates should be seated at all. Obama wasn't even on the ballot there. I haven't talked to the chairman in Florida yet..."
John Perez is a labor organizer and political operative, currently the Executive Director of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) Region 8 Council, representing California, Arizona, Nevada and Hawaii.
Perez first endorsed John Edwards, then Clinton and is now undecided. "Given where the race is right now, I think it's very important for us to play a role in bringing the party together around the candidate that people have chosen, as opposed to advocating for our own choice," he said.
Garry S. Shay is the Chair of the California Democratic Party Rules Committee and serves on the DNC's Rules Committee. He's a list serve manager. What factors will influence his decision? "The best interests of the nation and the Democratic Party, electability, my state vote, the number of pledged delegates, in that order. BUT, this is not to say that the last one couldn't cause a tip in the balance here."
Mirian Saez is a lesbian activist and national vice-chair of the GLBT (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender) Caucus within the DNC. She's San Francisco's interim director of the city's public housing authority. During the Clinton administration's first term, she was director of the Office of Rental Assistance in the Urban Development Department.
Saez endorsed Hillary Clinton a year ago. She plans to go to home-state Ohio before the March 4 primary to "rally my mom's friends," because she believes in Clinton's "ability to change the channel, if you will, domestically and internationally...And the fact she is a very strong-willed person, I appreciate that. And the nation has its first opportunity to elect a woman, and that interests me, too."
The Obama campaign has not yet contacted her, but "The Hillary campaign calls frequently. We have weekly conference calls about what's going on."
Mona Pasquil works for a political consulting firm that advises candidates, non-profit organizations and some corporate PACs. She's on the DNC rules and bylaws committee and served in the Clinton White House as Western states political director. Pasquil has endorsed Hillary Clinton, co-chairing the Asian-American Pacific Islanders for Hillary Steering Committee. She's helped Clinton staff members target key Asian-Pacific Islanders at campaign stops.
Crystal Strait, at 28, is the youngest of California's superdelegates and the granddaughter of a couple who met at a Japanese-American internment camp in Gila Bend, Arizona during WWII: She serves on the DNC as the representative for the Young Democrats of America. "I've never been a rubber-stamp kind of person," Strait explained when asked if she'd go along with the winner of the popular vote or the candidate with the most pledged delegates. "I'll make a decision based on the best interests of the young Democrats I represent."
If this small sample is any indication of the diversity of backgrounds and interests of the others, Torres' promise sounds like a pretty safe bet.
This piece was produced as part of OffTheBus's Superdelegate Investigation. Click here to read more superdelegate profiles.