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Superdelegate from Juneau backs Obama

Posted: Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Alaska's last two uncommitted Democratic superdelegates announced Monday they were backing Barack Obama for president.

Juneau's Cindy Spanyers said the Illinois senator has the ability to carry Alaska in the November general election.

"He has a streak of independence that Alaskans like," she said.

Joining Spanyers in making a long-awaited commitment was Blake Johnson of Kenai. Alaska's two other superdelegates, University of Alaska Fairbanks' John Davies and Democratic Party Chairwoman Patti Higgins, have already committed, to Obama and Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., respectively.

Monday's announcements mean Alaska's superdelegates have backed Obama by a 3-1 ratio, closely mirroring his lead over Clinton in the February Alaska caucuses.

The move in favor of Obama comes at a time when he has built a commanding lead over Clinton to win the Democratic nomination, but still needs additional delegates for an outright victory.

State Sen. Kim Elton, D-Juneau, a prominent Obama supporter, said it was important that Alaska's superdelegates committed while their support mattered.

"This is a very good time," he said. Delegates that commit after Obama has the nomination sewn up would lose their chance to win support for Alaska issues, he said.

"I think the Alaska superdelegates are going to commit to the people they believe in," he said, "but it is very good to commit when the commitment still means something for the state of Alaska."

Spanyers' support for Obama came despite a call from former President Bill Clinton urging support for the former first lady.

"I didn't say 'no' at the time," she said.

She said Obama has pledged a campaign visit to Alaska, "if at all possible," as well as a longer trip to Alaska after November. Spanyers' hope, of course, is that Obama would be either the president or the president-elect at the time of that second trip.

Alaska last gave its three electoral votes to a Democrat 40 years ago, in 1964, when Lyndon Johnson defeated Barry Goldwater.

Spanyers said that could happen again, the way Obama is inspiring voters.

"People find him refreshing," she said, adding he'd be good for Alaska.

"I think he recognizes Alaska has a role in our future in energy," she said.

"He's really sensitive to our high energy cost across the state," she added.

Spanyers also said Obama's opponent, Sen. John McCain, is not popular among Alaskans. The Arizona senator placed fourth in the Republican primary in Alaska.

"Sen. McCain has had a bias against Alaska for years," she said. "I'm not sure that can be overcome."

• Contact reporter Pat Forgey at 523-2250 or patrick.forgey@juneauempire.com.



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