- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 13, 2008

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton yesterday called the Michigan and Florida Democratic primaries fair and said those states’ delegates must be seated at the national party convention or chosen in new primaries, even as her campaign severed ties with adviser Geraldine Ferraro over racially charged comments.

“In my view, there are two options: Honor the results or hold new primary elections,” the senator from New York said at the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in Washington. “I don’t see any other solutions that are fair and honor the commitment that 2½ million voters made in the Democratic primaries in those two states.”

Florida and Michigan held primaries earlier than allowed under national Democratic Party rules, and were told that their delegates would not be seated at the presidential nominating convention in August. Mrs. Clinton won the primaries in both states.

The campaign of Sen. Barack Obama vowed to defend the party rules and said the Clinton campaign was moving the goal posts on a solution.

“We will not accept the seating of delegates based on the January votes since Senator Clinton herself said the Michigan contest didn’t count for anything,” said Obama campaign manager David Plouffe. “We played by the rules. Now when they believe it serves their political interest, they are trying to change the rules.”

Mrs. Clinton’s campaign manager sent a letter asking Mr. Plouffe to help solve the delegate issue, but the gesture was lost in a controversy that led to the resignation of Mrs. Ferraro from the Clinton campaign. The 1984 Democratic vice-presidential nominee and women’s rights leader was serving on the campaign’s finance committee.

In remarks reported in a California newspaper earlier this week, Mrs. Ferraro said: “If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position. And if he was a woman [of any color], he would not be in this position. He happens to be very lucky to be who he is. And the country is caught up in the concept.”

Although Mrs. Ferraro resigned from Mrs. Clinton’s campaign, she continued to defend her comments, saying they were taken out of context.

Mrs. Clinton said she disagreed with the comments, but was attacked for not taking a stronger stand.

Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson yesterday defended her response.

“Senator Clinton said that she did not agree with the comments and said she rejected them. I think Senator Clinton was clear in both her disagreement and her rejection,” he said.

Mrs. Clinton trails Mr. Obama in the race for delegates needed to secure the nomination. With weeks to go before the next primary contest, Pennsylvania’s April 22 election, Mrs. Clinton is trying to pick up as many delegates as she can. That means focusing on the unseated Florida and Michigan delegations.

Democrats have the option to take the fight to the credentials committee at the convention in August, to pay for costly new primaries, or to hold caucuses, a system that has been particularly kind to Mr. Obama.

“We’re certainly … committed to studying all avenues possible to ensure that the delegates are seated at the Democratic convention. We are going to exhaust all options from now until the convention before we reach the worst-case scenario, to simply hope the credentials committee will seat the delegates,” said Alejandro Miyar, spokesman for the Florida Democratic Party.

The candidates pledged not to campaign in either state, but their names appeared on the Florida ballot. More than 1.75 million Democrats cast votes in that primary.

Mr. Obama took steps to have his name removed from the Michigan ballot, and 40 percent of voters checked their ballot for “uncommitted.”

Several calls to the Michigan Democratic Party were not returned.

Christina Bellantoni contributed to this article.

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