Wednesday, May 14, 2008

State’s superdelegates are undeclared and unfazed

Holdouts have variety of reasons as Democratic primaries near the home stretch

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The superdelegates may not need to be so super after all.

Sen. Barack Obama last week tightened his grip on the Democratic presidential nomination with a convincing victory in North Carolina and a narrow defeat in Indiana.

Nine Maryland superdelegates remain unpledged to either Obama or Sen. Hillary Clinton and are perhaps hoping that they will not need to help determine the party’s nominee. On Monday, Prince George’s County Executive Jack B. Johnson switched his allegiance from Clinton to Obama.

By holding out, some superdelegates may feel that they have bargaining chips that can be cashed in to improve their standing in the party, said David C. King, a professor with the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

‘‘But for many superdelegates, they hope not to be part of the story,” King said.

Anyone undeclared has a bargaining chip, King said. ‘‘[But] morally or ethically they’re in a position where they don’t want to use them. They will choose to sit it out unless their vote is crucial.”

Some Maryland superdelegates have other reasons for holding out.

As chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, U.S. Rep. Christopher Van Hollen Jr. said it was in the best interest of Democratic congressional candidates in special election races for him to remain neutral.

‘‘I made it pretty clear early on that I would not be taking a position,” said Van Hollen (D-Dist. 8) of Kensington.

That helped the DCCC to land an Obama appearance in a television spot for Bill Foster, who won the seat in Illinois’s 14th Congressional District vacated by former House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R).

Both Obama and Clinton raised money for Louisiana state representative Don Cazayoux’s successful campaign in the conservative 6th Congressional district in Louisiana.

As one of nine nationally elected Democratic National Committee officers, DNC Vice Chairwoman Susan Turnbull of Bethesda must remain neutral according to the party’s charter, said Alexandra Chalupa, director of the office of the vice chairwoman.

According to the charter, the national chairman is ‘‘responsible for ensuring that the national officers of the Democratic National Committee maintain impartiality and evenhandedness during the Democratic Party Presidential nominating process.”

Westminster City Councilman Gregory Pecoraro dropped every air of self-importance when considering his role as a superdelegate.

There are two kinds of superdelegates, he said: The elected leaders who are expected to speak out and folks like him.

‘‘Nobody, in my view — except maybe my mother — is looking to me to say ‘Hey, what do you think Greg? Because it’s really important to me how you feel about this.’”

But in the waning weeks of the primary season DNC Chairman Howard Dean could have something in common with Pecoraro’s mother.

Dean has called for superdelegates to declare for a candidate by the end of June.


Nine of Maryland’s 29 superdelegates remain undeclared, including:

U.S. Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Dist. 3) of Pikesville

House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Dist. 5) of Mechanicsville

U.S. Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Dist. 3) of Towson

U.S. Rep. Christopher Van Hollen Jr. (D-Dist. 8) of Kensington

Del. Heather R. Mizeur (D-Dist. 20) of Takoma Park

Democratic National Committee members Gregory Pecoraro, Susan Turnbull, John Sweeney and Belkis Leong-Hong.