Hillary Clinton wins presidential primary in Washington D.C. ahead of meeting with Sanders

US Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaking at a campaign event in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on June 14.
US Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaking at a campaign event in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on June 14.PHOTO: EPA

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - Democrat Hillary Clinton won the District of Columbia primary on Tuesday (June 14), capturing the party's last presidential nominating contest as Democrats turn their focus to the Nov 8 election against presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump.

The former secretary of state easily beat rival Bernie Sanders in the District of Columbia, winning 79 per cent to his 21 per cent with more than two-thirds of the vote counted. The primary closed a more than four-month, state-by-state battle for the Democratic nomination that began on Feb 1 in Iowa.

Mrs Clinton, who secured enough delegates to clinch the Democratic presidential nomination last week, will meet in private later on Tuesday with Senator Sanders as the sometimes bitter political combatants search for common ground in the race against Mr Trump.

Sen Sanders is under pressure to give up his campaign and help unite the party. But the US senator from Vermont has vowed to push on to next month's convention to gain more converts to his agenda of reducing income inequality, curbing big money in politics and reining in Wall Street.

At a news conference in Washington on Tuesday, Sen Sanders said he would also demand changes to make the Democratic nominating process more equitable, including replacing the Democratic National Committee leadership, letting independents take part in the voting and eliminating superdelegates, who are unelected and are free to support any candidate.

 

"The time is long overdue for a fundamental transformation of the Democratic Party," he told reporters.

Sen Sanders had promised to stay in the Democratic race until the final vote was cast in the Washington, D.C., primary, although he has stopped talking about capturing the party's nomination and instead focused on ways he can push his agenda.

He scheduled a national video address to supporters on Thursday night.

During a visit to Capitol Hill earlier on Tuesday, Sen Sanders told Democratic senators he would take his message of progressive values and party reform to the convention.

"I'm open to that, I think we should all be open to that,"Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois told reporters afterwards. "It's not a surprise that the American people are skeptical of all of us in political life. And we ought to step back and reassess why, and what we can do about it."

Top Democrats have taken steps in the last week to begin rallying behind Mrs Clinton and ease Sen Sanders out of the race without alienating his supporters.

President Barack Obama endorsed Mrs Clinton on Thursday, hours after meeting with Sen Sanders at the White House. Sen Sanders also went to Capitol Hill to meet with Senator Harry Reid, the top Democrat in the Senate. Sen Reid said afterward that Sen Sanders had accepted Mrs Clinton as the Democratic nominee.

Mrs Clinton has also secured the endorsement of Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, the leader of the party's left wing, who remained neutral in the primary race until it was clear Mrs Clinton would be the nominee. Sen Warren's populist credentials will boost Mrs Clinton's ability to court Sen Sanders' voters.

Mrs Clinton already has turned her attention on the campaign trail to the race with Mr Trump, rejecting the New York businessman's renewed calls for a ban of the entry of foreign-born Muslims into the United States after the mass shooting at a gay club in Orlando, Florida, by an American man who claimed allegiance with Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants.

"I have clearly said that we faced terrorist enemies who use a perverted version of Islam to justify slaughtering innocent people. We have to stop them, and we will," Mrs Clinton said in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on Tuesday. "But I will not demonise and declare war on an entire religion."