Texas Dems Try to Divvy Up Delegates

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) -- Democrats gathered in basketball gyms, churches and courthouses Saturday for another phase of Texas' complex caucus system to decide whether Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton will win more delegates in the state.

Because of the huge Democratic turnout in Texas' primary and caucuses March 4, just registering delegates at the approximately 280 county and senate district conventions sometimes took hours.

But even at some of the largest conventions in Houston and Dallas, the day seemed to progress smoothly, albeit slowly, and with occasional arguments.

"It's actually more organized than I thought it would be. I was expecting chaos. But it's still a lot of hurry up and waiting," said Marya Minter, 35, a Clinton supporter in Houston's Senate District 15.

Preliminary caucus results tallied by The Associated Press showed that Clinton had 226 delegates, or 58 percent, to 161 delegates, or 42 percent, for Obama by Saturday afternoon. That's out of about 7,300 delegates expected to be selected at the county and district conventions.

A number of metropolitan area conventions were likely to last all day and into the evening before reporting results. Smaller conventions finished much earlier. And more small counties than had been expected by the state Democratic Party did not hold conventions at all.

A total of 67 delegates are at stake in the Texas caucuses. The final count will be determined at the state party convention in June.

In Austin, delegates got fed up waiting at least an hour in traffic to reach two senate district conventions at the Travis County Expo Center. Some abandoned their cars on the side of the road and walked the rest of the distance. Travis County officials extended the morning sign-in period because so many of the thousands of delegates hadn't gotten the chance to register.

Jenny Magar of Austin, a 47-year-old delegate for Obama, was not put off by the waiting or by the organization of her convention.

"The old-timers are going to be prepared for it, and the new-timers are going to be curious," she said.

At the conventions, credentials committees heard challenges lodged against the way certain delegates were selected at precinct caucuses in early March. Frustrated delegates shouted at credentials committee members in Senate District 23 in Dallas.

Committee chairman Gary Fitzsimmons, after one of many interruptions, said calmly, "Believe it or not, I actually know what I'm doing."

Casey Lloyd, 31, an Obama delegate awaiting her turn before the rules committee, left the loud auditorium to wait outside.

"If you acted like this in an airport, they'd throw you out," Lloyd said. "But I'd rather see my neighbors, be around people, than drop my name anonymously in a box somewhere."

Many of the challenges were brought by Clinton supporters questioning the validity of Obama delegates. The Clinton campaign said it wouldn't lodge any challenges itself but that it was helping supporters who would.

Obama has fared better overall in caucuses this year. An incomplete and unofficial count by the Texas Democratic Party showed he was leading Clinton in the March 4 caucuses 56 percent to 44 percent.

Obama entered Saturday's Texas conventions leading the national race for delegates, 1,623 to 1,499. It will take 2,024 delegates to secure the Democratic nomination. Those totals could change after this round of the Texas caucuses.

Clinton won the state's primary voting on March with 51 percent to Obama's 47 percent. Immediately after the polls closed that night were more than 8,000 precinct caucuses that selected about 88,000 delegates to go on to Saturday's conventions.

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