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Local Democrats switch to Obama

By Joel Hall

jhall@news-daily.com

Last week, a series of reports suggested that several influential politicians in the Southern Crescent -- including super delegates, Congressmen John Lewis (D-GA) and David Scott (D-GA) -- have chosen to support Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination.

On Monday, a spokesperson for Lewis, however, would neither confirm nor deny that Lewis is now supporting Obama. Scott, though, has made it clear that he has switched his support to Obama.

He is not the only one. Other local lawmakers, for one reason or another, have recently moved away from Hillary Clinton or other initial choices and put their faith in Obama. These include State Sen. Valencia Seay (D-Riverdale), who, last week, announced her switch from the John Edwards campaign to Obama's camp.

Seay supported Edwards in his 2004 run for the presidency, as well as in his most recent attempt. When Edwards suspended his campaign, Seay said she had a tough decision to make, but was ultimately won over by Obama.

"We have two strong candidates," running for the Democratic nomination, said Seay. "The issue is which one will ultimately be able to defeat Senator [John] McCain. The energy that [Obama] has brought to the Democratic party has been so inspiring that I am willing to go out there and help him achieve that goal."

Seay -- who like Obama, was raised by a single mother -- said she valued Obama's "commitment to education" and his ability to motivate younger voters.

"He has energized the young people and gotten them engaged, and that is a huge feat," she said. "He is proving that even as a minority, he can run the county ... and look out for everybody on every level. On any level, I am willing to help him in this endeavor."

"When I heard him speak, he made a believer out of me," said State Rep. Darryl Jordan (D-Riverdale), who until December, had been a Clinton supporter. "Obama had a dream about change. We need a different seasoning ... rather than the same old salt."

Scott said he announced his support for Clinton in October based on his "working relationship" with the two-term senator.

"I know her [Clinton], and we are friends, and she has been very helpful with legislation that I have authored," said Scott. He said that Clinton had helped push through the Senate legislation concerning PeachCare, the Arabia Mountain preservation project in DeKalb, Rockdale, and Henry counties, and a $4.6 billion contract for Lockheed Martin in Marietta for the continued manufacturing of C-130 and F-22 fighter planes.

"I have to have a partner in the Senate," said Scott. "I can't get it done by myself. She's been my partner over there, and we knew nothing about Obama, so when it came time to support Hillary, I did." However, "that was before my constituents spoke so overwhelmingly," in support of Obama, said Scott.

In the Feb. 5 Georgia primary, Obama gained nearly 65 percent of the vote statewide and over 80 percent in some counties. Nationally, however, Obama is only slightly ahead of Clinton in the number of delegates.

Scott said "it is very important for the will of the people to be expressed at the convention. I have a chance to cast my vote as a super delegate," he said. "[Constituents] spoke loudly in favor of Obama, and I want them to know that I will speak loudly on their behalf ... I will cast my vote to support Obama."

Scott said that prior to this presidential campaign, Obama was relatively unknown, and that several elected officials from the civil rights era had been reluctant to put their support behind him. He added that many of those who grew up in the racial discrimination of the 50s and 60s were originally doubtful that America would put their support behind an African American.

"You cannot condemn those older civil rights leaders for not jumping on this bandwagon earlier," said Scott. "Nobody knew about Obama three years ago," but "a lot of things Obama has done are extraordinary.

"We've never been down this kind of road before," he continued. "I think there was great skepticism, but we've seen this guy attract more white men and white women in each primary. We all now see things that before were never seen ... it's a phenomenon."