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Rep. part of super group
By Noah Brenner, Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Date: February 15, 2008
To the casual observer, state Rep. Pete Jorgensen, D-Jackson, might not look all that impressive, much less super. But looks can be deceiving.
As the Wyoming Democratic Party’s state committeeman, Jorgensen is one of 796 “superdelegates” to the Democratic National Convention, a group that pundits nationwide are saying could determine the Democratic nominee for president.
Jorgensen said he will cast his vote for Illinois Sen. Barack Obama when he travels to Denver in August for the convention.
“Having lived over 70 years and been down [in Cheyenne] six years, I know we need to tip the wheelbarrow over,” he said. “We need real change.”
Obama, Jorgensen said, can be an instrument of change because of his stance in favor of campaign finance reform and focus on consensus in international relations.
Normal delegates are elected at party primaries and caucuses. Superdelegates are members of the Democratic Party who were not elected through the normal process. The group is made up of all Democratic members of Congress, all Democratic governors and officials within each state’s Democratic Party.
Wyoming has three superdelegates besides Jorgensen: state party Chairman John Millin, state Vice Chairwoman Nancy Drummond and state committewoman Cynthia Nunley. Jorgensen pledged his support for Obama in October and was joined afterward by Millin.
“In his campaign, up until now, he has needed all the leverage he could get because he is up against the establishment,” Jorgensen said of his early declaration of support.
Drummond and Nunley have said they remain undecided.
A candidate needs 2,025 delegates to win the Democratic Party’s nomination, and at this point in the close race, neither Sen. Hillary Clinton nor Obama is expected to garner enough support to win the nomination during the states’ primaries and caucuses. With Obama holding an estimated 100-delegate lead over Clinton, the votes of the superdelegates, especially those who have not yet pledged, could determine the winner.
These undecided superdelegates have received increasing attention from both camps as the delegate race enters its final stages.
Jorgensen, because of his early declaration of support for Obama, has not received as much attention as superdelegates who have remained officially undecided.
“They know once you’ve pledged, and they haven’t tried to flip me,” he said. “All I get is e-mails from Hillary or Chelsea or President Clinton thanking me for my past support, which is funny because I haven’t sent them a dime.”
That does not mean Jorgensen can completely avoid the controversy that is swirling in Democratic circles nationwide over how superdelegates should cast their vote. Some argue that superdelegates should vote with the state they are representing. Others say superdelegates should be free to choose the candidate they support individually. Even superdelegates who have pledged to support a particular candidate are free to change their vote at any time.
If Clinton were to take a majority of delegates during the Teton County Democratic conventions March 8, Jorgensen said he would continue to support Obama.
“My inclination is to stick it out to the end,” he said. “[Saying you will support whoever wins your state] is a very popular thing to say until it comes down to analysis of who can win against [expected Republican nominee Sen. John] McCain.”
Though the political system and an incredibly close race may have placed him in a unique position of power, Jorgensen said he did not necessarily support the process.
“The system is not perfect or rational,” he said. “If we had a national primary and an election one month later, that would be a rational system.”
Nevertheless, the experience at the center of the American political maelstrom will be interesting, Jorgensen said.
“I love this attention given to superdelegates as political players,” he said, laughing. “I am hardly a political player.”