Diane Russell | Photo by Leah Arsenault
Diane Russell, a 39-year-old Democratic state representative from Maine, rested her raspberry cocktail on the bar table at Center City’s Sonesta Hotel and glanced at her cell phone. There was a torrent of notifications on her screen, but not the one she was waiting for. Any minute, she expected to get word from the New York Times that the final draft of an op-ed she’d written was good to go. (Check it out: It was published this morning.) But she discovered something else. “Oh my God. The Intercept. Just wrote about me,” Russell said, in staccato fashion, while covering her mouth.
The Intercept, of course, is the muckraking online publication with a passionate following that has reported extensively on the 20,000 Democratic National Committee emails that have been recently leaked by Wikileaks. Russell was the subject of one of the more scurrilous discoveries that cast the DNC in an unflattering light. “Someone leaked emails from the DNC mocking my work. I made the Intercept because people laughed at me!”
Russell, a Bernie Sanders supporter who lived in the Italian Market from 1999 to 2004, has been front-and-center in the national conversation over curtailing the influence of superdelegates in the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination process. In May, Russell and colleagues changed the way Maine allocates its delegates, so that, starting in 2020, superdelegates will be required to be awarded proportionally to the vote of the state’s caucus. (In the leaked emails, DNC Vice Chair Donna Brazille called the efforts of Russell “another lunacy.”) The amendment does not eliminate superdelegates—only the DNC could make such a change—but it strips them of their most controversial power: their ability to pledge to a candidate, regardless of the popular vote. Russell has now introduced an amendment to the DNC’s Rules and Bylaws Committee that would essentially do the same thing on the national level. The committee votes later this afternoon on whether to allow the amendment to be taken up by the entirety of delegates at the convention next week.
This interview has been lightly edited for style and condensed.
How did you get involved with the superdelegate issue in the first place?
Do you remember the Huffington Post graphic, when you’d click on the button to put the superdelegates into the candidate’s total, and then you’d click on the button to take the superdelegates out? I couldn’t stop pushing the button. I got fixated. Read more »