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Democrats differ on candidates

Tue., Feb. 5, 2008

OLYMPIA – In an indication of how tight the Democratic presidential contest has become, Washington’s lieutenant governor on Monday endorsed Hillary Clinton, not long after nearly two dozen Democratic lawmakers gathered outside the Capitol to declare their support for Barack Obama.

Polls had Clinton and Obama neck and neck on the eve of Super Tuesday, as party voters in many states – including Idaho – choose their preferred standard-bearer in November. On the Republican side, most polls suggested that John McCain had a significant lead over Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee.

Among those endorsing Obama: state Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown and fellow Spokane Democratic Sen. Chris Marr.

Despite criticism that Obama – a former Illinois state lawmaker who has served three years in the U.S. Senate – lacks the seasoning to be president, Brown said she believes he has the judgment and experience, as well as a critical ability, to unify people.

Obama “has this ability to speak beyond partisanship,” said Brown, who, like Obama, is an Illinois native. “I have a lot of confidence in his ability to inspire the right people to come forward and help him lead the country in a new direction, which is obviously where we need to go.”

Lt. Gov. Brad Owen, meanwhile, on Monday joined a number of prominent Washington politicians who have endorsed Clinton. They include U.S. Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, former Gov. Gary Locke and U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee. The Clinton campaign on Monday also released a list of endorsements from 37 other state officials, including 18 lawmakers.

Still on the sidelines is Gov. Chris Gregoire, a Democrat.

Gregoire has said she intends to make an endorsement before Washington’s caucuses, which are scheduled for Saturday.

One unlikely voice in the pro-Obama camp was state Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch, who frequently breaks party ranks to vote with Republicans. He endorsed President Bush and 2004 Republican gubernatorial candidate Dino Rossi.

But on Monday, Sheldon was wearing an Obama button and said he’s the best candidate for president.

As organizers set up Monday, Brown hugged Sheldon.

“That’s the ability to unify,” she said.

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