- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 14, 2008

The District’s role in deciding the Democratic presidential nominee may not have ended with Sen. Barack Obama’s convincing victory in the city’s presidential primary Tuesday.

The city, which had just 15 delegates at stake in the primary, has 23 superdelegates — more than all but seven states. And with the Illinois senator earning 75 percent of the vote by D.C. residents, their alignment is likely to shift in the coming days.

“I’ll probably have to rethink some decisions, but we’ve got some big elections coming up,” said Marilyn Brown, one of nine superdelegates currently pledged to Mr. Obama’s competitor, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, according to a list her campaign released Sunday.

If neither Democrat emerges from the primary season with the 2,025 delegates needed to secure the nomination, the party’s 796 superdelegates — who are not required to reflect the choices of their home-state voters and can still switch their pledged support — would cast the tie-breaking votes.

Paul Strauss, a D.C. superdelegate because of his status as shadow senator for the District, said yesterday he remains uncommitted but that Mr. Obama’s victory would weigh into his decision.

“I’m only a superdelegate because I was elected by the voters, and it would be irresponsible and wrong to ignore the decision of the voters,” he said.

The District’s superdelegates range from Mayor Adrian M. Fenty — an Obama supporter — to former officials in the Clinton administration and local members of the Democratic National Committee.

Mrs. Brown, national committeewoman for the D.C. Democratic State Committee, said she remains “pledged solidly” behind Mrs. Clinton at the moment.

She said she thinks a clear Democratic nominee will be apparent before the party’s convention this summer in Denver, as the two candidates head to delegate-rich states in the coming weeks. But Tuesday’s election also could play a role in her vote.

“Of course you have to remember where you live and what people did there,” she said. “We’ll all cross the bridge of making that decision when we get to that point, if it comes to that point.”

The District’s position is unusual: No state has more superdelegates than delegates. The number of superdelegates allocated to the District exceeds those given to states like Ohio, New Jersey, Tennessee and Virginia, which has 18.

C. Richard Cranwell, chairman of Virginia’s Democratic Party, said the apportionment process is fair.

“The way the allocation works is a formula that everybody understands and everybody lives with,” he said.

Still, the role of superdelegates in the nominating process is one that has sparked criticism and debate.

D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, a superdelegate who endorsed Mr. Obama on the eve of the Potomac primary, said those in her role should follow the will of the voters, who will determine which candidate receives the majority of delegates.

The idea that superdelegates should decide the presidential nominee would allow “the return of [the] smoked-filled room, behind the scenes selection of our candidate,” she said.

“My notion is ‘Make sure that the voters don’t feel that they can be canceled in any way by the superdelegates,’ ” Mrs. Norton said.

Democratic strategist Donna Brazile, another superdelegate from the District, also said superdelegates should not be the final factor in choosing a nominee.

“If 795 of my colleagues decide this election, I will quit the Democratic Party. I feel very strongly about this,” she said this week on CNN.

David Meadows, a spokesman for the D.C. Democratic State Committee, said the party has not adopted an official stance on superdelegates supporting nominees based on voter decisions or their own personal preference.

He said state committee chairman Anita Bonds — also an uncommitted superdelegate — does not plan to pledge her support until after the committee’s delegate selection process is completed in May.

“A lot of attention is being paid to the superdelegates in a close election like this [and] that is understandable,” Mr. Meadows said. “But I think overall everything will work itself out and we’ll have a united Democratic Party, whichever nominee is selected.”

Seth McLaughlin contributed to this report.

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