PHILADELPHIA – New Mexico’s Democratic delegates – some weeping for joy – cast the majority of their votes for Hillary Clinton on Tuesday night in Philadelphia, capping a historic primary election campaign that resulted in the first major-party female nominee for president in U.S. history.
New Mexico’s delegates cast 27 ballots for Clinton and 16 for Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, with Sen. Tom Udall and New Mexico Democratic Party Chairwoman Debra Haaland sharing the celebrated role of announcing the state’s votes as the convention hall cheered.
The Wells Fargo Center erupted in even louder cheers moments later as Sanders made it official when the roll call got to his home state of Vermont – an important show of unity for a party trying to heal deep divisions.
“I move that Hillary Clinton be selected as the nominee of the Democratic Party for president of the United States,” Sanders declared, asking that it be by acclamation.
It was a striking parallel to the role Clinton played eight years ago when she stepped to the microphone on the convention floor in support of her former rival, Barack Obama. For Democrats, it was a jubilant start to a night that was to include former President Bill Clinton taking the convention stage to deliver a personal validation for his wife.
Udall began New Mexico’s proclamation of votes by honoring the Navajo Code Talkers, who helped the U.S. in World War II, then he lauded the state’s national nuclear laboratories and urged, “Entrepreneurs, come join us!”
Haaland then stepped to the microphone to finish the job.
“As the first Native American state party chair in our country, and on behalf of our diverse citizenry, our delegation proudly casts 16 votes for Sen. Bernie Sanders and 27 votes for the first woman president of the United States, Hillary Rodham Clinton!” Haaland said.
Afterward, Haaland, along with former New Mexico Lt. Gov. Diane Denish and other women in the delegation, became teary-eyed and hugged and high-fived one another as the enormity of the historic moment overcame them.
“Thinking about the fact the she is a woman and how hard women have fought in this country to get where they are, it meant a lot,” Haaland said.
“I’ve been a fan of Hillary’s, but I’ve also been a fan of progress for women all of my life,” Denish said. “It’s an important day for women in my generation.”
A night before, Sanders delegates from New Mexico and around the country booed Hillary’s name and expressed deep displeasure with a Democratic Party political process that they viewed as stacked against them by the party’s establishment. But on Tuesday, several Sanders delegates said they would support Clinton over Republican nominee Donald Trump.
John Padilla, a Sanders delegate from Albuquerque, said he became emotional Tuesday morning when the realization sank in that Sanders’ historic campaign was over after more than a year of hard work. But Padilla vowed to move his support to Clinton, as Sanders asked his delegates to do during his speech Monday.
“I went to every Hillary delegate and I shook their hand and congratulated them,” Padilla said. “I’ll vote for Hillary in the fall, because we can’t have Trump.”
The roll call of states was one more opportunity for Sanders supporters to voice their fierce loyalty to the senator from Vermont. Sanders sat in the arena soaking in the cheers and waving to the crowd.
Although some Sanders delegates vowed to support Clinton, others left the arena in protest after the roll call of states.
Clinton’s campaign hoped the night of achievement, personal stories and praise could chip away at the deep distrust many voters, including some Democrats, have of the former secretary of state, senator and first lady. Much of the convention’s second night was being devoted to introducing voters to Clinton anew, including three hours of speakers highlighting issues she has championed for years, including universal health care and advocacy for children and families.
Bill Clinton spent his hour on stage Tuesday night praising the Democratic nominee as a wife, mother and leader.
“She’s the best darn change-maker I ever met in my entire life,” the former president said. “This woman has never been satisfied with the status quo on anything. She always wants to move the ball forward. That’s just who she is.”
Clinton aides believe focusing on policy can rally Sanders’ supporters. Although the opening night was interrupted by boos and chants of “Bernie,” there were fewer signs of discord Tuesday.
Sanders had implored his supporters not to protest during the convention. Still, several hundred people gathered at Philadelphia’s City Hall under a blazing sun Tuesday, chanting, “Bernie or bust.”
Trump cheered the disruptions from the campaign trail. In North Carolina, he told a convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars that “our politicians have totally failed you.”
When Trump mentioned Clinton’s name, the group answered with shouts of “Lock her up!” – an echo of the chants at last week’s Republican National Convention.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.