Sen. Edward M. Kennedy's presidential campaign has been granted a hearing by the Democratic National Committee on the Massachusetts senator's claim that he was cheated out of six Virginia delegates to the party's national convention.
The Kennedy camp has challenged the way the state's 64 delegate were apportioned, complaining that Kennedy deserved more than the five delegates he won in party caucuses. President Carter was recognized by state party officials as winning all 59 of the other delegates.
"If successful in our challenge, we could go from five delegates, to 11 delegates, which would be a clearer reflection of our strength in Virginia," said Ernest Kessler, Kennedy's Virginia coordinator.
Kessler said Kennedy's challenge will specifically focus on procedures used in selecting delegates from the Richmond and Chesterfield areas of the 3rd Congressional District and from the 5th Congressional District in southside Virginia. He said Kennedy supporters will also seek to claim four of the 20 at-larger and protocal delegates that went to Carter.
Accusing the state party of violating the Democrat's national delegate selection plan, Kessler said Kennedy's voting strength in the Richmond and Chesterfield areas had been erroneously calculated. In the 5th district, he complained, Carter delegates who wanted to switch to Kennedy were prevented from doing so.
The Virginia challenge is one of two that will be heard before a special DNC credentials panel in Washington. The other complaint comes from Florida and hearings on them are tentatively scheduled for June 24.
Moo Murray, counsel to the credentials committee, said the panel will be examining the question of how the party rules should be interpreted. Both sides in the dispute, she said, seem to agree on what led the Virginians to apportion the Carter and Kennedy delegates as they did.