BISMARCK - North Dakota Democrats attending the party's national convention in Philadelphia this week are hoping for some excitement to counter the momentum Donald Trump enjoyed from a wild Republican National Convention last week.
But the 22 delegates may not be much help to presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton in her historic quest to become the first woman to win a major party's nomination for president.
Thirteen of the state's 18 pledged delegates are backing Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who has endorsed Clinton since the Democratic-NPL Party held its delegate selection meeting June 18 in Bismarck. The other five delegates are pledged to Clinton.
One of the state's five unbound superdelegates won't attend the four-day convention. National committeewoman Renee Pfenning of Bismarck said Friday she has a personal conflict.
Of the four remaining superdelegates, U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp is committed to former secretary of state Clinton and national committeeman Chad Nodland is committed to Sanders. Dem-NPL chairwoman Kylie Oversen, a state representative from Grand Forks, said Friday she's "definitely leaning Clinton," while vice-chairman Warren Larson of Bismarck said he hasn't decided.
Sanders could release his delegates to Clinton, just as she released hers to Barack Obama in 2008. But even if he does, Oversen said there will probably be a number of Sanders delegates who won't switch their votes.
Sanders plans to meet with his roughly 1,900 delegates just before the convention begins Monday to provide direction, the Associated Press reported. According to the AP's count last week, Clinton had 2,807 delegates in her corner and Sanders had 1,894, including superdelegates. A candidate needs 2,383 delegates to clinch the nomination.
Nodland said Friday he still intends to vote for Sanders, saying "it's not over 'til it's over."
"It won't surprise me if (Clinton) is the nominee, but I think everybody's got to vote," he said.
The Bismarck attorney compared the infighting and controversy at the GOP convention to WWE wrestling and said he's worried his party's convention will be more like C-SPAN.
"What the Democratic Party needs to figure out is essentially a way to compete with that," he said. "I think you have to do it with something that's interesting and exciting, which is one of the reasons I'm voting for Bernie. He's not an establishment Democrat, and even if he doesn't get the endorsement, he brings some things to the Democratic Party that have been missing for a while."
Nodland said he thinks he can support Clinton as the nominee, but added it will take some time for Sanders supporters to get past the negative comments made about them by Clinton supporters on social media and elsewhere.
Oversen said the reality of a "very scary candidate" in Trump as the GOP nominee should help galvanize support for Clinton.
A Pew Research Center survey released earlier this month found that of Democrats and Democratic-leaners who backed Sanders in the primary contests, 85 percent said they plan to vote for Clinton in November, compared with 9 percent for Trump and 6 percent who said they will vote for another candidate or didn't know.
"We saw at the RNC so much negativity and fear and a negative tone overall, and I am confident there will be a much more positive and excited and optimistic tone coming out of our convention," Oversen said.
Larson also predicted a more harmonious convention.
"I don't anticipate any animosity no matter what happens. They're all great people and we believe in the same progressive movements and I think that we're going to come together," he said.