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Originally published Tuesday, February 5, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Election 2008

Lawmakers gather to back Obama

About 30 Democratic state legislators — including Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown of Spokane — gathered at the Capitol sundial...

Seattle Times Olympia bureau

About 30 Democratic state legislators — including Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown of Spokane — gathered at the Capitol sundial Monday to endorse Barack Obama for president ahead of Saturday's precinct caucuses.

Congressman Adam Smith, co-chairman of Obama's Washington campaign committee, opened the event by raving about Obama's ability as a "uniter."

There was evidence of that right behind Smith: Standing side-by-side were Sen. Tim Sheldon of Potlatch, Mason County, easily the most conservative Democrat in Olympia, and Sen. Adam Kline of Seattle, one of the most liberal. What's more, the two are borderline arch-enemies within the Democratic caucus.

What made Sheldon's appearance even more significant is the fact that, in 2004, he was the leader of "Democrats for Bush" in this state.

Sheldon didn't speak at the event, but afterward was swarmed by reporters wanting to hear his reasons for supporting Obama.

"I didn't make the right choice four years ago," Sheldon said. "This is the time to change America."

Asked to explain his choice in 2004 a little further, Sheldon said, "The decisions President Bush made about the economy have been shortsighted. The decisions he made about the war have been disastrous for our country."

Minutes after the Obama event in Olympia, Hillary Rodham Clinton's campaign put out a news release announcing that she had been endorsed by Lt. Gov. Brad Owen and nearly 40 state lawmakers and local elected officials.

Clinton's new support came from as broad a range of the Democratic political spectrum as Obama's. Owen is a conservative Democrat — and, in fact, he once held the same seat that Sheldon now holds.

Others endorsing Clinton for president included Republican-turned-Democratic Sen. Rodney Tom of Bellevue, Seattle City Councilwoman Jan Drago and Sen. Karen Keiser of Kent.

Also Monday, former state Democratic Party Chairman Paul Berendt announced he's backing Clinton. Berendt had been a big supporter of former Sen. John Edwards, who bowed out of the race last week.

"I strongly believe that Hillary Clinton is the most electable Democrat," Berendt said.

Ralph Thomas: 360-943-9882 or rthomas@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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