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May 21, 2008

Another Lock-Step Decision

Kevin E. Dayhoff

Last Friday, Westminster Common Councilmember, and Democratic National Convention superdelegate, Greg Pecoraro endorsed Senator Barack Obama. His endorsement comes as the Democratic primaries draw to a close and presidential historians are looking to a very busy summer.


Pecoraro’s selection signals that the drama of the longest presidential campaign in history may be coming to an anti-climatic finish as the Illinois senator edges closer to garnering enough superdelegates to give him a mathematical edge over his rival for the Oval Office, New York Sen. Hillary Clinton.


Of course, as the curtain closes on one act, another plot is developing in all the drama that is American politics. All the political players are now warming up for the vice presidential sweepstakes. That decision may prove to be just as acrimonious as the last 16 months of this campaign season.


Once again, Democratic war-game strategists are hypothecating that the national party may rely on superdelegates to play a role in the veep race.


For one of the first times in recent memory, it appears that the primary elections will not determine a winner in this prolonged contest, and that the decision would have to be made in a floor fight at the convention.


The term “superdelegate” has burst only recently into our political lexicon. However, the concept of superdelegates has been around since the Democratic Party tasked the “McGovern-Fraser Commission” to make changes in the delegate selection process in the wake of the disastrous 1968 Democratic Convention.


The Democratic Party rules denote what we commonly refer to as a “superdelegate” as delegates seated based on other positions they hold. They are formally described in Rule 9-A as an unpledged party leader and elected official delegates. The rules do not use the term “superdelegate.” It is actually an informal term coined for credentialed delegates at the convention, who are free to endorse whomever they choose.


In Mr. Pecoraro’s case, he is both a Democratic Party leader and an elected official. According to “, he “has represented Maryland on the DNC since 1996, and has been active in Democratic politics since high school as a Young Democrat, a county chair, and state party executive director.”


In addition to being an elected member of the Westminster Common Council, he “was a presidential elector in 2000. He served as Assistant Secretary of Transportation under Gov. Parris Glendening, chief of staff to Baltimore County Executive Jim Smith, and as an assistant to former U.S. Senator Paul Sarbanes and Maryland State Treasurer Lucille Maurer. He currently is a government affairs executive with AOPA (Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association,) the world’s largest aviation association.


Mr. Pecoraro’s announcement is important for several reasons. Over 16 months after this drama began, and with only a couple of primaries left, Democratic National Convention mathematicians are still crunching numbers in the calculus known best to alchemists. And all the equations require each and every vote of every single superdelegate to be plugged into the formulas.


Secondly, Mr. Pecoraro has developed a national reputation for possessing a first-rate political mind. His decision to cast his lot – and the future of the party – with Senator Obama is sure to gather attention and influence other national Democratic Party leaders.


To those ends, the announcement was carried by outlets as far and wide as the Associated Press, Time magazine’s political blog, “The Page,” by the magazine’s editor-at-large and senior political analyst, Mark Halperin, to the highly entertaining and controversial political blogs, “The Daily Kos” and “The Huffington Post.”


In a prepared statement released on Senator Obama’s website, Mr. Pecoraro said: “Today, I am very excited to join the large majority of Maryland Democrats who expressed their enthusiasm for Senator Obama’s candidacy in our state's presidential primary. Like them, I believe Barack Obama is the right leader for our time.”


In his statement, Mr. Pecoraro praised Senator Clinton and acknowledged that “Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have given our (Democrat) party a difficult choice between two outstanding candidates…


“I strongly believe that Senator Obama offers us the best opportunity we have had for many years to turn away from the politics of division and despair, and look toward an America of opportunity and progress.”


The announcement came just days after published reports noted that he was “one of the state's nine uncommitted superdelegates.” This means that as of last Friday, with the commitment of Mr. Pecoraro, 10 of Maryland’s superdelegates are committed to Senator Obama. Senator Clinton has 11 endorsements.


Maryland has 99 delegates who will vote at the Democratic National Convention, which will be held August 25 through the 28 in “The Pepsi Center” in Denver.


In the Maryland delegate tally, Senator Obama has 53 pledged delegates to 38 pledged for Senator Clinton and eight delegates who have yet to declare.


For those attempting to keep score at home, the sheer numbers of the convention is mind-boggling. One published account estimates that it will cost approximately $15 million just to prepare “The Pepsi Center” for the estimated 35,000 people who are expected to attend. That includes over 15,000 members of the media.


There are 4,048 voting convention delegates attending, excluding those from Michigan and Florida. Of these men and women, 795 are the superdelegates. The magic number for Senator Obama is 2,025, again not counting delegates from Michigan and Florida. As of last Friday, Senator Obama’s total of pledged superdelegates was 295.5, which means that he only needs another 119.5 delegates to assure the nomination at the convention.


Delegates from Florida and Michigan, the party leaders say, will not be seated at the convention because officials in those states decided to hold their primary election earlier than national party officials told them they could.


Mr. Pecoraro said the other day that he didn’t seem overwhelmed. He said that he has attended every National Democratic Convention since 1980 except one. He also said it was a great honor to be a part of history and that he was looking forward to the convention.


Kevin Dayhoff writes from Westminster: E-mail him at:


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