- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 12, 2008

RICHMOND — Virginia superdelegates, like their counterparts in other states, are split over whether their votes at the Democratic convention this summer should be for the winner of state primaries or their personal choice.

Delegate Jennifer L. McClellan, Richmond Democrat, said yesterday she will vote for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton regardless of primary outcomes.

“I will cast my vote at the convention for her unless she withdraws from the race because I still believe her to be the best candidate for the job,” she said. “I imagine those superdelegates who have committed to Senator [Barack] Obama feel the same way.”

The controversy started after Mr. Obama, Illinois Democrat, and Mrs. Clinton, New York Democrat, emerged from the recent Super Tuesday primaries essentially tied for the number of superdelegates won.

Mr. Obama now leads Mrs. Clinton 931-882 in the number of delegates won in primaries and caucuses, according to the most recent Associated Press count. However, Mrs. Clinton leads Mr. Obama 1,148-1,121 if superdelegates are factored into the count.

Virginia has 18 superdelegates — Gov. Tim Kaine, the state’s Democratic members of the U.S. House and Senate, and other party insiders.

If neither Democrat emerges from the primary season with the 2,025 delegates needed to secure the nomination, the party’s 796 superdelegates would cast the tie-breaking votes.

So far, six of Virginia’s superdelegates have vowed to support Mrs. Clinton, and four back Mr. Obama — Mr. Kaine and the three Virginia Democrats in the U.S. House. They are Reps. Robert C. Scott, 3rd District; James P. Moran, 8th District; and Rick Boucher, 9th District.

Unlike the state’s 83 delegates, the superdelegates can vote for any candidate, regardless of whom they endorse during the campaign.

Mr. Kaine, Mr. Obama’s national co-chairman, suggests a clear front-runner will likely emerge before the national Democratic convention and that the superdelegates will support “the people’s choice.”

“So, at the end of the day, I don’t expect it will be the superdelegates brokering the deal,” he said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week” program. “The superdelegates, I think, are going to follow the will of the electorate.”

However, Mr. Kaine said the previous night, at the annual Jefferson-Jackson Dinner, in Richmond, he had “declared his allegiance and am not changing.”

Delegate Lionell Spruill, Chesapeake Democrat and a superdelegate, said he plans to vote for Mrs. Clinton, no matter what happens in Virginia or in the rest of the primary season.

“He is not the guy who goes with the popular crowd,” said spokeswoman Susan Rowland. “He is firm with his conviction to Senator Clinton.”

Mr. Moran, who on Sunday endorsed Mr. Obama, plans to stick with the candidate, regardless of primary votes.

“Congressman Moran endorsed Senator Obama, believes he will be the Democratic nominee and looks forward to voting for him as a superdelegate at this summer’s convention,” said spokesman Austin J. Durrer.

Sen. Jim Webb is among the few remaining top Virginia Democrats who has yet to endorse a candidate.

Spokeswoman Jessica Smith declined to discuss Mr. Webb’s vote, saying, “We’re going to stay out of this discussion for now.”

C. Richard Cranwell, chairman of the state Democratic Party, said he has not decided how he will vote at the national convention and suggested the process must have been adopted for a good reason.

Superdelegates “bring an institutional memory and historical perspective to the process that is designed where the primary process does not resolve the nominee,” he said. “This is kind of like understanding that fresh peaches are wonderful, but you know canned peaches that were so meticulously put away to be enjoyed in January or February brought a little different flavor.”

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