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‘Superdelegate’ Inslee is coy

The congressman says he’ll wait to see how the Clinton vs. Obama race plays out.

A record 250,000 Washington Democrats caucused last Saturday, but if the race for party presidential nominee remains close, the spotlight will be on just 17.

That’s the number of preselected state party officials – 1st Congressional District Rep. Jay Inslee of Bainbridge Island among them – who get a vote at the national convention.

Inslee and four other Washington “superdelegates” have supported Sen. Hillary Clinton in her bid for nominination, but after Barack Obama’s convincing win in Washington, there will be plenty of pressure from constituents and campaigners to switch sides.

Inslee plans to see how the rest of the campaign unfolds before announcing whom he will support at the August national convention, spokesperson Christine Hanson Clapp said Thursday.

“In terms of being a superdelegate, he is expecting things to clear up before August rolls around,” Clapp said. “Hopefully we’ll all be behind one candidate and Jay will support whomever that is 110 percent.”

If either Clinton or Obama reaches the benchmark of 2,025 delegates needed for nomination, then the role of the superdelegates will be minimal.

But if the race rolls into the national convention undecided, then those pre-picked members, who make up one-fifth of Democratic delegates, will have to take sides.

Inslee announced his support for Clinton in June 2007 and has served as co-chair of her campaign’s energy and environmental task force. He made an appearance at Clinton’s rally on the Seattle waterfront Feb. 7 before caucusing with fellow islanders at Commodore Options School last Saturday.

Meanwhile Inslee’s constituents strongly favored Obama in the caucuses.

Results showed Obama picking up 80 percent of the island’s delegates. He claimed 70 percent of delegates in Kitsap County, and four of the six national delegates from Inslee’s 1st Congressional District will be awarded to Obama, according to the Washington State Democrats.

So far three of Washington’s superdelegates have supported Obama’s campaign, including Governor Christine Gregoire.

Though many superdelegates have made endorsements, they are considered “unpledged” until the national convention.

Islander Roth Hafer, who was elected as an Obama delegate at his caucus, said Inslee should consider the results of his state’s caucuses in making his decision.

The high turnout for Obama shouldn’t be written off as a youthful phenonmenon said Hafer, who will turn 70 in April.

“I’m hardly a young, wide-eyed supporter. Obama has energized people the way no one else has,” he said. “I think it would be very insensitive for (Inslee) to continue supporting Hillary the way he has.”

Still, Hafer said Inslee is right to hold his decision until August, provided he takes a hard look at both campaigns before deciding who to support.

“One would get, by that time, a much better chance to look at how things stood,” he said.

Island Democrat Louis Richard said he hopes superdelegates don’t swing the election, especially if there’s a clear favorite.

But he also doesn’t plan to support petitions he has heard of aimed at swaying their vote to favor the state caucus results.

“I’m inclined to let the elected officials make up their own minds rather than putting pressure on them,” Richard said. “I respect (Inslee) a great deal and I know he has his reasons for supporting Hillary, as do the others.”

Remo Barr, chair of the 23rd Legislative District Democrats agreed it was best for Inslee to wait until results are in from all the states.

“A lot can happen,” she said, “even in a week.”

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Delegate results

Democratic delegate allocations based on last Saturday’s caucuses. (Republican delegates won’t be known until the Feb. 19 primary are tabulated.)

Precinct: Clinton (C) Obama(O) Undecided (U)

Azalea 302: C:2 O:7; Blakely 310: C:2 O:7; Blue Heron 301: C:3 O: 12 U:1; Crystal Springs 312: C:2 O:12; Eagle Harbor 317: C:2 O:7; Ferncliff 315: C:2 O:12; Finch 314: C:1 O:7; Fort Ward 318: C:2 O:8; Island Center 320: C:2 O:7; Liberty 325: C:2 O:8; Lovgren 332: C:1 O:5; Manzanita 336: C:2 O:7; Meadowmeer 3216: C:1 O:5; New Brooklyn: C:2 O:5; Port Madison: 340: C:1 O:6 U:1; Rolling Bay 330: C:3 O:9; Seabold 335: C:3 O:9; Skiff Point 328: C:2 O:8; Tolo 333: C:1 O:8; Torvanger 345: C:3 O:11; Wing Point 305: C:2 O:6; Winslow 304: C:4 O:14.

Total delegates: Clinton: 45, Obama: 180, Undecided: 2

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