- The Washington Times - Monday, April 21, 2008

ANNAPOLIS (AP) — Nearly half of Maryland’s 27 Democratic superdelegates remain uncommitted to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton or Sen. Barack Obama, and many of them have been heavily courted for months by the candidates or surrogate supporters.

Gregory Pecoraro, one of 13 uncommitted superdelegates in the state, has heard repeatedly from both campaigns. They call him regularly to ask how he’s doing, and push gently for his vote. Mr. Pecoraro said he recently met for “a casual conversation” with Mrs. Clinton, New York Democrat, at a D.C. hotel.

“It was a really soft sell, but I thought it was more effective for being that way,” Mr. Pecoraro said, recounting how Mrs. Clinton laid out priorities that included plans for withdrawing troops from Iraq, health care and environmental issues.

Nine Maryland superdelegates say they are backing Mrs. Clinton, and five say they will support Mr. Obama, Illinois Democrat. Mrs. Clinton has an overall small lead in superdelegate endorsements, 258-232, according to a tally by the Associated Press.

Superdelegates are party and elected officials who automatically attend the Democratic National Convention and are free to support whomever they choose. Nearly 800 superdelegates will be at the convention in Denver. They have become a focus of the campaign because neither Mrs. Clinton nor Mr. Obama can clinch the nomination without them.

Lauren Glover, another uncommitted Maryland superdelegate, said she has received numerous letters, phone calls and e-mails from candidates. She said she has been surprised by the attention.

“Typically, Maryland is taken for granted, because typically it is a blue state. But now our votes are as important as everyone else’s, and that’s good for everyone,” Miss Glover said.

Michael Cryor, the chairman of the Maryland Democratic Party who also is an uncommitted superdelegate, said he receives 30 to 50 e-mails a day from Obama or Clinton supporters. Though they have been persistent, Mr. Cryor said, the campaign supporters have avoided being “overly pushy.”

“People are very creative, and their sentiments seem to very heartfelt,” Mr. Cryor said.

Not all the superdelegates are receiving heavy attention from the candidates.

Susan Turnbull, a Maryland superdelegate who holds a national party post, is required by party bylaws to remain neutral until the convention. When she casts her vote, she said, it will be for the prospective nominee, and the candidates know that.

“It would be almost silly to spend too much time courting me, because they know my position,” Miss Turnbull said.

Belkis “Bel” Leong-Hong, a Maryland superdelegate and chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee’s Asian-American and Pacific Islander caucus, said she is waiting to learn more about what the candidates have to say about the Asian-American community before she commits to supporting one of them.

“I am still waiting to hear from the candidates what they have to say about my community,” she said. “They haven’t said very much.”

Other uncommitted Maryland superdelegates say they are weighing a host of factors before making a decision.

“It’s not a mathematical formula,” said Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin, who is uncommitted. “The bottom line, the most important of all of those factors is: Who has the best chance to win in November?”

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