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Queens delegates back Obama

Following their return from the Democratic National Convention in Denver last week, members of the Queens delegation, which had been committed to Hillary Clinton, resoundingly declared their support for Barack Obama.

Though some uncertainty swirled around members of the New York delegation, who overwhelmingly supported the state's junior U.S. senator during the extended primary season, several Queens delegates who returned from the convention said the party was firmly unified behind Obama, serving his first term as a senator from Illinois.

"It was thrilling, really," said state Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Whitestone). "I mean, we were a part of history, nominating the first African American as a candidate for president. We came away with a very good feeling."

As late as Tuesday of last week, Clinton had not released her delegates to vote for the candidate of their choosing, and they told the TimesLedger they were waiting for her to do so before throwing their support behind Obama. Clinton officially released her delegates at a breakfast meeting early Wednesday morning.

Later, during the "roll call" vote, in which each state confirms who its party is nominating, Clinton herself interrupted the vote and called for an acclamation vote, or a unanimous vote, declaring Obama the candidate.

State Senate Minority Leader Malcolm Smith (D-St. Albans) said Clinton's historic campaign would not be soon forgotten.

"Sen. Clinton's groundbreaking campaign inspired millions and left Democrats energized from coast to coast. Hillary has done the nation, New York and the Democratic Party a great service and that service is far from over," said Smith.

"The issues her campaign highlighted, including the struggling economy, greater access to health care for every American family and finding alternative energy sources will be carried on by our nominee, Barack Obama," Smith said.

City Councilman John Liu (D-Flushing) agreed and said while the Clinton campaign was certainly historic, it is time to turn the page.

"It's understandable that there are some people, myself included, who were strong supporters of Sen. Clinton who are still disappointed with the results of the primary. The primary is over now and Barack Obama is our nominee, and I think the Democrats in this country are firmly behind him," he said.

Reach reporter Stephen Stirling by e-mail at Sstirling@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, ext. 138.

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